Rabbitt's Basement: Rise of Vecna
A man of peace driven by bloodshed
Deep within the southern forests of Gaia lived a village of peaceful tribesmen. Primarily cut off from the outside world, these people flourished and found their craft in medicine, hunting, cloth making, and art. Exposure of the outside, though rare, did present its self on occasion in the way of weary travelers that had become lost in the forest. This tribe was always quick to welcome the newcomers into their homes for food and rest, until they had the energy and supplies to continue their journey. The village chieftain was a kind and generous man, and taught the tribe to live in peace and harmony. His family consisted of his wife Kimone, daughter Lenee, and his son Bishop. This is Bishop’s story.
As a child Bishop always showed an interest in art, be it painting, sculpting, writing or story telling, he enjoyed it all. He spent most of his time singing to the village people, however. He loved to sing songs of lore, of love, of happiness, and of sorrow. The way he could capture the attention of so many people, and bring happiness with his voice gave him peace. He would often times sing while his sister worked on jewelry for her friends. Bishop and Lenee were both very close. Rarely did they ever fight, though when they did it was usually in good fun. The two of them were almost always laughing and joking, and Bishop would often times accompany her when she went to pick berries deeper in the forest. When Bishop wasn’t singing, or helping his sister, he would usually be out hunting with his father. Bishop was a tracker. He was never comfortable with taking the life of an animal, and would often look away when his father plunged the knife into the neck of fresh game. “Sometimes you must take life to give, or sustain life.” his father told him. “The earth knows this. The trees know this, the animals know this. There is a balance we must maintain, and once we’re gone we too shall return to the earth and give life.” Bishop respected his father greatly, and his words resonated through him. Though he knew this to be true he still couldn’t stand the look of desperation in the eyes of the animals they hunted, and his father respected that.
One day a man wandered into their village. Weary and hungry they took him in. He was on his way to a town north of the forest, and was just passing by. That evening as they ate, drank, and shared old stories, the stranger pulled something from his pack, something that caught they eye of young Bishop. It had a wooden teardrop shaped body, with strings that ran all the way up a long neck and were rapped around pegs until pulled taught. The man noticed the gleam in Bishop’s eye, smiled, and then began to strum. All that sat around the camp fire grew silent as tones and harmonies fluttered through the air. The man began to sing, painting pictures with words, his voice dancing and flirting with the tones and rhythm of this odd instrument. Bishop moved closer to the wanderer, completely enthralled in the beauty of his song. Images of kingdoms, of dragons, and knights filled his mind. Images of maidens, kings, queens, and princes took form, transporting him to a new world. Never before had Bishop witnessed such beauty, and once the man stopped playing he began immediately inquiring about this queer device. “Ah so you like my mandolin?” the man smiled. He handed it to Bishop, whom gingerly took it from him as though it were a precious heirloom. He strummed the strings, but the notes came out sour, and without form or meaning. The man laughed. “You have to place your fingers on the strings.” He chuckled as he took it back from Bishop. “Like this.” and he began to play a song that reminded Bishop of warm summer days, and cool waters; the smell of honey suckle and morning dew filled his nostrils. The man was holding the instrument in front of Bishop’s face, and he hadn’t even noticed the song had stopped. For the next couple days, as the man stayed to regain his strength, Bishop would visit him in his tent, where he would teach him how to play the mandolin. Bishop had always been a quick learner, as well as a patient student. The man appreciated this, and admired the young man’s patience and wonder. The day of his departure he met with Bishop at the outskirts of the village. “I think you should have this.” he said as he reached into his pack. Out of it he pulled the mandolin that Bishop had grown so fond of in only a few days. “This mandolin is magic.” the man joked. “When I’ve needed gold, it’s gotten me gold, when I feel sad it’s cheered me up, when I’ve been scared, it’s given me courage.” the man handed it over to young Bishop. “And, well, the ladies love it too.” the man let out a jovial laugh. Bishop looked at him confused, but was struggling to suppress his sense of joy and excitement. He thanked him for the gift, and with a wink, the man turned and continued his journey north.
Days passed, weeks, months, and eventually a year. Bishop didn’t miss a day where he played the mandolin. His new passion had become singing. His father insisted he hunt with him, but respected his decision to stay behind and sing. His mother Kimone would sit by and prepare supper in the warmth of his songs. The village began to call him The Song Bird, and would spend their nights around the camp fire listening to him sing and play. Bishop was always anxious for outsiders to wander by so that he could captivate them in the beauty of his songs. One day, while he sat humming out tones and playing his mandolin one of the young women of the village came and sat next to him. The woman’s beauty immediately stole his attention. He had seen her around the village before, and knew her name, but never had the courage to talk to her. Though he could play amongst a crowd of his peers, he was much reserved and shy when not singing. Bishop froze, and his heart began to pound. Though he was of age, and his mother constantly insisted he find a woman, he was very much a stranger to the opposite sex. Nervously he began to strum again, and tried to hum along, though not without a slight quiver in his voice. “I love your songs.” the girl said. Bishop stopped playing again. “Thank you.” he replied quickly. “I’m Kitara.” the young woman continued. “I see you a lot around the village, but I’ve never taken the time to introduce myself. You’re Bishop, right? ‘The Song Bird’, they call you. Everyone talks about your singing. You’ve become quite popular over the last year.” Bishop looked down at his mandolin and smiled. “Well, I have a friend to thank for that.” he said, his voice distant in the memory of a stranger. “You see, this mandolin of mine is magic. With it I can take people to distant lands, I can paint landscapes of golden cities and kingdoms of far away places. On the notes of this instrument you can soar far away from here, and be carried up betwixt the clouds and the stars, fly with birds into the sunset, and perch in the tress among baby’s breath and figs. With my voice I calm the most restless heart, or make a warrior out of a coward. Yes, I am The Song Bird, and I wear that name proudly.” The woman smiled, and Bishop began to blush at the words he had found himself caught up in. A voice from the past echoed in his head “And, well, the ladies love it too.” These words now given meaning to him, for in front of him sat a woman like out of one of his song, as though the mandolin its self had given his words flesh, form, figure, and a name. Like a dream she sat before him soaked in the halo of sunlight, eyes giving him all her attention. And though he laughed at his words Kitara only waited for more, pausing in anticipation of the continued flow of his poem. But Bishop was not reciting poetry, nor was he trying to entertain, he simply spoke from his heart, directly to an individual, something he rarely did. And as his eyes met hers his heart was plunged into a tempestuous sea of emotions. Hope, happiness, despair , fear, joy; so many emotions, many of which words couldn’t describe.
In himself he felt pain, but comfort. He wanted to smile, but to cry. He had only just met this woman, and already felt like he was losing her, as though she was always in arms reach but so far away. If he could only reach farther he could have her, and he had to have her, to feel her, to smell her, to know who she was, and to love her. Never before had he felt this, and he could no longer tell if his heart was racing out of anxiety, or out of love, of lust, racing because of the primal urge to have, to obtain, to achieve, or racing out of the fear of loss, and regret. For the next few days his thoughts would be filled with her. He had only a name, and a gorgeous face, but who she was he knew nothing of.
Lenee began to tease him about his new found infatuation. His mother, Kimone, was excited and encouraged him to talk to her more, and to spend more of his time with her. His father too was proud of him, and praised him for catching the attention of such a beautiful young woman. Bishop, however was conflicted. He didn’t know what to say to her, how to win her heart, her trust, her respect, and subsequently her love. One night, as the tribe’s people began to congregate around the fire, he found her, and sat right next to her. She didn’t say a word, but her smile spoke volumes, and like the first day he met her his chest began to pound. Fueled by this new feeling, he played more beautifully than he had ever played before. The whole village sat silent around the fire, eyes all on him. His song flowing and weaving, stealing the attention of his pears, and stealing the heart of his new found love. After that night Bishop and Kitara were never seen far apart. He gave her his all, and cherished every moment they spent together. He fell deeper and deeper in love with her with every word she spoke. What was simple banter to most he found to be art and poetry in every sense of the word. She was an angel fluttering amongst commoners. Without her, he thought, he was meaningless. Many nights he would lay with her in his tent, and they would lay back breathless and exhausted and in absolute ecstasy, until falling asleep in each others arms. This had become his life, and he had found his rhythm and followed its beat with no fear of where it may lead him, as long as she was by his side.
The village was thriving, and the people were at peace and harmony with themselves, and with each other. If there was a heaven then this was it.
A shrill scream ripped Bishop from a deep sleep. He sat up disoriented, one foot still in the dream world, but sounds of horror tugged at him until he passed the threshold into total consciousness. Outside of his tent he heard the heavy thud of horse shoes, of cries, voices begging and pleading, screaming for help, help that wouldn’t come. Bishop ripped through the flaps of his tent and was greeted by the sight of bloodshed, fire, and destruction. Men on horse back circled around the village with swords, and axes. They swung and effortlessly dismembered and beheaded his friends. Tents glowed like giant candle wicks reaching desperately into the night sky; reaching as if trying to escape this horrible place. Embers rose from the ground until snuffing out and settling back down as ash. There were men lying in pools of blood, entrails matting the earth, and still the horsemen cut others down, pulled women out of tents, forcing themselves upon them. Bishop stood frozen in terror with no inkling of what to do, of how to act. A malodorous aroma assaulted his nostrils. It was a concoction of charred flesh, death, ash, and hopelessness. A tribe’s man sat rocking back and forth with his head between his legs when suddenly an arrow came silently through the air and lodged its self deep within his skull. The man silently slumped forward as his body began to twitch and convulse. Bishop quickly ran from his tent. He ran faster than he had ever run before. He made his way to Kitara’s tent, but found it empty. The implications of its vacancy surrounded him with a sense of dread, and he began to choke on the lump forming in his throat. He darted off in the direction of his parent’s tent, jumping through flames, and over bodies, slipping in blood, and kicking up ashes. The sound of a horn called from the distance and as he looked back he caught a glimpse of the horsemen retreating. With them they had women tied up and bound on the backs of the horses as they galloped away until disappearing into the shadows of the forest.
Bishop stood trembling outside of his parent’s tent, the moans of the dying and wounded inhabited the night air whaling like phantoms. If there was a Heaven, then it had been raped. He stepped into the tent and what waited inside shattered what little stability was left within him. In the middle of the room laid his sister Lenee with a cut across her neck exposing sinewy flesh beneath. She gurgled and gasped but could form no words. Bishop cradled her in his arms, his eyes trailed a million miles away, his body now deep in the clutches of shock and fear. He just sat there, and he sat until the sun rose.
Once Bishop snapped back into awareness the reality of the night before was presented to him in the form of Lenee’s dried blood and matted hair sticking to his arms. The pool he had sat in had coagulated hours before, and he sat there like a candle stuck in its own wax. His sister was now cold, and the stench of decay had began to manifest. He stood up and without thought stepped out of the tent. The suns rays burned his eyes. Birds chirped and the world continued on with no consciousness of the treachery that had occurred on its surface the night before. Bishop walked to the center of town. past the dead, past the dying flames, and the ashes; he just walked. “Bishop?!” a tremulous voice called out. He paid the voice no mind and only continued on his way. His legs carried him, and on his shoulders and in his heart he carried a new weight of unimaginable proportions. “Bishop, it is you.” The voice rang again. A man covered in dried blood and ash quickened his pace to match that of Bishop’s. “I can’t find my wife. Could you help me find her? There are a few of the other villagers that have started looking for other survivors and trying to patch up the wounded. We can’t find most of the women and the ones that are still alive are badly wounded, or incoherent.” Still Bishop walked until he made it to a tent that was left tattered and half collapsed. It was the trader’s tent. Within it he rummaged through the few wares that were left. Among them he found a pipe, opium, and ale. Just what he needed, his medicine, elixir, what he had set off for in a daze to find. “How can you drink at a time like this? We need help. We need to start-” but Bishop had already turned away and began to walk deeper into the forest. The man murmured and spat under his breath “bastard.” but the words fell upon deaf ears, and were swallowed by the surrounding forest. Where he was heading Bishop had no idea. He just continued to walk. His feet were growing sore and his legs weak, until he finally collapsed under a tree. He wept. Tears left clean tracks through the ash and blood on his cheeks. Weeping turned to sobbing, and sobbing gave way to bawling. He opened the bag of opium and took a pinch in his fingers, generously sprinkling it into the pipe. Then the realization snapped him into a state of awareness, he had no matches, and was too tired to make a fire. In his rage and confusion he tossed the pipe and sunk back down against the tree. He quickly grabbed the bottle of ale and with a “pop” bit the cork off from the neck. He began to drink deep gulps of the ale, filling his empty belly. Minutes later his belly felt warm, and his face grew numb. He took another look at the bag of powder, and poured some into the remaining ale. Again, he tipped the bottle back and swallowed the liquid, which now tasted bitter and gritty. Bishop choked, then gagged, and heaved, until he muscled down the liquid that his body was resisting. He sat there under the tree. The sun shining brightly, and then brighter, and brighter still. The birds chirping began to stretch out. “chirp” “chirrp” “chirrrrrp” “chirrrrrrrrrrp” until it just became one steady tone ringing in the back of his head. The sound of his breathing vibrated deep within his ear drums, his body grew cold on the outside, but very warm and fuzzy on the inside. The rustle of the grass on his arms made “scratch, scratch” scratching sounds against his skin. And he began to feel something at the back of his throat, until he found himself vomiting violently on the ground. The ringing continued, even louder now, and his whole body felt like it was throbbing, and shifting, and crawling. He could feel his heart racing, as if it were about to burst in his chest. Bishop closed his eyes tight and put his hands tightly on his head until all he could feel was his hands and head, and within the darkness behind his eyelids felt to be drifting in a void, a void only inhabited by ringing, and the rapid thud of a heartbeat.
Darkness. It was so dark in the forest that Bishop couldn’t tell if his eyes were in fact open or not. His body was numb and his head was spinning. The ground at his back felt to be pushing him, as though he was feeling the inertia of the earth its self flying through space. Then something snapped him out of it. Whispers began to call out from the trees. They formed not words but just the cadence and sibilance of words, the hiss and pop of the whispers brought him to his feet. His eyes focused, and he could see the dim outlines of trees and branches kissed by the silver glow of the moon and stars. And so he began to walk in the direction which he thought the whispers were coming from. Still dizzy from his dangerous concoction of ale and opium, a poison that the body was smart enough to expel, he stumbled in the dark, chasing disembodied voices. Though it was dark he couldn’t deny a sense of movement around him, predators, or phantoms tracking him, watching him, hunting him. Bishop’s breath quickened and he began to rush through the forest without direction or orientation. Suddenly he felt something pierce through his back and out of his chest. He crashed to the earth with a thud, and the snap of twigs beneath him. His chest grew warm, then his stomach, then the ground around him. Within the moon light he could see the oily glow of blood. Blood that, in the darkness, appeared black. The whispers had stopped. Behind him Bishop perceived the rustling of foot steps. They grew closer and closer, until who or whatever it was stood behind him. He laid there like a stone. Then the touch of a hand on his shoulder jarred him and rolled him on his back. The silhouette stood over him and spoke. “You have to take life, to give life, son.” Then the silhouette shifted quickly and Bishop felt the numb sting of a sharp blade plunged into his neck. He choked on the blood, but couldn’t breathe. It was filling his lungs, and he felt like he was drowning, only now he was drowning. He was no longer on the ground but underwater, and he frantically began to swim in the direction he thought was up. What breath was left in him was stale, and his body was screaming for oxygen. He swam, and swam, his limbs growing cold, fighting every urge to suck in air, or water. He swam frantically, his body shutting down, vision getting darker, and darker, arms and legs giving out.
Cold. Again Bishop awoke, but this time next to a lake. His body was soaked and freezing. Across the lake was a small cliff with a waterfall. Beneath the waterfall was the figure of a woman. Bishop tried calling out but his words choked him. He called out again “H..lp… HE.. HELP!” he cried. The woman slowly turned to face him, and any words he may have hoped to speak were now lost, because across the lake, under the waterfall, stood his young sister Lenee. She stepped into the lake and walked across, waist deep in water, her dress flowing around her in the water, almost like it was alive, until settling against her form tightly soaked in water. “I’m sorry, Bishop. I can’t help you.” the apparition said. “I’m only here to say the things I couldn’t in my final moments.” Bishop’s eyes welled with tears. She smiled, reached down and wiped a tear from his cheek. “I know you’re sad, Bishop, and I understand you’re angry. But you must be calm, brother.” Bishop sat up, staring in amazement at his sister. She continued to speak “I need you to understand that my death was not your fault. There was nothing you could have done.” Tears continued to pour from Bishop’s eyes and the words “nothing you could have done” brought about a sharp pain in his chest. “I’m okay now. You don’t have to worry about me. But, Bishop, I know there is a fire that burns deep within you. I know that there is only one thing that can snuff it. I want you to know that I give you my blessing to do whatever you must to quench that flame.” Bishop looked up and spoke. “What do I do? How do I avenge our people?” Lenee looked down at him, her face solemn. No longer was she smiling and laughing, never again would she make jewelry, or tell her jokes, she would never again hear Bishop’s songs, and yet here she stood before him. “You must do the one thing father never taught us. The one thing our village never did, what we were all raised to avoid.” Bishop stood up, tears still misty in his eyes, and with a quiver in his voice he spoke “And what’s that?” Lenee turned her back to him looking over her shoulder and said “Fight.” Bishop jarred awake from a deep sleep, only to find himself at the base of the tree he had originally collapsed at. The bottle of ale tipped on its side, the bag of opium spilled over next to it. He had passed out in his own vomit. The sun was hanging low in the sky, purples and oranges hugging the tops of the trees. The stars shining dimly in the firmament. It was dusk, and Bishop was lost. He was lost deep in the woods, but even more lost in his own conflict. “Fight.” that final word was all that gave him meaning and direction now.
Bishop’s knuckles bled as he struck the tree one last time. The tree was spattered in crimson that trickled down slowly like sap. Breathing heavily, Bishop lowered his hand down to his side. Both fists were throbbing, and the cloth he had wrapped them in was saturated in blood, and torn to shreds from constant striking. This is how he spent his evenings now. It had been this way for months. Every day he worked on a different technique. One day he practiced jabs and crosses. The next day elbows, then leg kicks, then knee strikes. His body had grown hardened and calcified from constant abuse. The trees around his small camp were pitted where he had struck them continuously. Every morning he woke up in agonizing pain, and every evening he collapsed in exhaustion from hours of training. He tracked and hunted game with only has bare hands. He warded off wolves and bears with only his rage, and shear aggression. This is how he lived his life now, and this would be the case for the next three years. Blood, callouses, broken wrists, battered shins, these were all signs of progress to Bishop. If he didn’t go to bed in pain, his day had been wasted. His nights were filled with restless dreams, images of his burning village, his sister bleeding on the ground, the voice of Kitara screaming out for him, until he wakes up. With each passing day he felt farther and farther away from her. Was she still alive? Did she miss him? As the months went on he thought of her less. The memories of her lingered like phantoms in his thoughts. Images of her, of Lenee, of his mother and father haunted him every waking day. The only thing that kept them out of his mind was his training. Pain, anguish, agony, all words to describe his new existence, his new found purpose.
A year passed, and then two. Bishop no longer kept track of days. Time had become meaningless. At the age of 21 he already looked aged and beaten. His face was scarred from being attacked by wolves. His arms and legs knotted from calcification, and fractures. His skin was coarse and callous, his eyes sunken and dark from exhaustion. When he saw his reflection in water he could no longer recognize himself. Bishop was a shell inhabited by demons of his past, driven by blood lust and rage. Still, with every passing day he grew stronger, faster, more fearless, and more determined to avenge his people. Bishop was no longer a man of peace. He lusted for blood, and would tear down anything that stood in his way. One day his fearlessness almost cost him his life. It was early evening. The sun hung low in the sky as the forest air grew cool, giving way to the stillness of night. Bishop toiled away at the fire, his muscles screaming, his body giving up as he tried to spark a flame. The boar he had slain that morning would prove an adequate feast for the night. Another presence in the forest thought the same thing. A scavenger in the shadows of the forest circled the small camp silently while Bishop fanned the small flame he had kindled in the tinder. A low growl rumbled from behind him from the darkness and Bishop spun around quickly and stood defensively, ready to strike or be struck. Two black beady eyes and a set of sharp teeth were illuminated in the early moon light. Again the deep guttural growl called out and Bishop knew his meal would have to wait. Slowly he backed up and concealed himself in the shadows. The beast slowly emerged from the forest and into the dim light of the small fire. Its lips curled revealing its blade like teeth, its eyes black like coal, fur flared up and wild. Bishop slowly and quietly made his way up into a tree to get a better view. The giant bear sniffed around the camp until it settled upon the large boar. Bishop cursed under his breath. He’d be damned if his hunt went to waste, but he was weak and was not prepared to ward off the interloper. As if his body were working on its own his reflexes repelled him from the branch of the tree. silently he leapt down, bringing the heal of his foot down on the bears head. He landed the kick with a great “thud” and the bear roared in rage, and reared up on its hind legs, teeth gnashing, and arms flailing. Bishop stood his ground, waiting for the first move. The bear swung its paw with great force and Bishop raised his arm to block. The blow was stronger than he anticipated, and he was knocked to the side and across the fire. Bishop rolled and resumed a crouching position. The bear charged toward him on all fours and bishop jumped, bringing his knee up, striking the beasts frothing maw. “CRACK!” the bear howled in pain. Bishop rebounded, recovered, and threw a jab right into the bears eye. Disoriented, the bear began to swing its paws wildly. Caught off guard, Bishop was struck across the face, being knocked to the ground with such force he couldn’t breathe. His nose was broken, and blood spilled down his face, his lip was split open and the red continued to flow down his chin and to his chest. Bishop was reaching his limit. His evening had begun with exhaustion, and a desire to rest, but his plans were interrupted, and now his life was on the line. Fight, and live through the night, or succumb to his body’s urge to give in. The great bear brought its claws down on Bishop’s head. He was losing this fight, and soon would be losing his life if he did not act quickly. Bishop stumbled back, his body painted in his own blood, his arms and legs trembling in one part pain, one part fatigue. Some battles can’t be won; some times it’s better to leave with your life, than with your pride. Frantically he climbed the nearest tree and made his retreat. The bear clawed, and roared as if calling him a coward, taunting him, beckoning him back down to finish what he started. The idea of losing his meal and a hunt gone to waste made Bishop’s chest boil with rage. He clinched his fists and his jaw, hate and anger burned behind his eyes. All he wanted was rest, he simply wanted to end his evening in silence, and now this intruder had come into his domain. The bear continued to claw at the tree. Bishop looked to his left and saw a branch hanging close by. He gripped it with one hand, and struck it with his elbow, snapping it from the tree with ease. With all the hatred in his heart he leapt one last time down at the beast, branch in hand. The bear let out a roar as Bishop dropped down on it, thrusting the branch down the bears gaping mouth, down its throat. It let out a labored gurgle as Bishop ripped the branch left and right, snapping the bear’s neck. As the bear began to fall Bishop kicked the branch farther down its throat, and with a heavy thud the mighty beast fell dead on the forest floor. Bishop panted as the rage burning behind his eyes began to dissipate. He collapsed in exhaustion and pain. His new wounds burned with his sweat, and his blood dripped from his nose and chin. Perhaps a bear would make a more suitable feast, but first Bishop had to mend his gaping wounds, and reset his nose.
Bishop screamed in agony as he snapped his nose back in place. His wounds he had rubbed with the oil of herbs that grew withing the forest. The gashes he sealed with the hot sap from trees. The moon now glowed high in the sky. Hours had passed and still he tended to his wounds. The fire now roared in front of him, and the boar hissed and crackled on the spit. Bishop had still not decided what to do with the bear. It still laid lifeless and heavy where he had left it, its fur flowing in the cool evening breeze. Bishop continued to dress his wounds as thoroughly as possible. His people knew a lot about medicine and healing, and he counted himself lucky. After he dabbed his lip one last time with a damp cloth he leaned back and stared into the fire. The flames licked at the boar whose meat had grown crisp and brown. It was almost time to eat, and Bishop could feel his hollow stomach growling and rumbling. He leaned forward to take his first cut of the tender meat when he heard a faint cry in the distance. It was pitiful, fearful, lost, and confused. He heard rustling in the bushes, and from them a cub emerged. Bishop’s stomach sank. The cub whined, and sniffed the air. Its attention immediately was drawn to the lifeless body of its mother. Bishop sat in disbelief. An honorable hunter never killed a mother, and Bishop, in his rage, hunger, in the heat of battle and survival, had done just that. The cub sniffed and nudged the body of its mother. The forest had changed Bishop, and he no longer knew who he was, what he believed, or why he ever believed the things he did. His life of peace, of preservation of the earth and of himself had left him. He hungered for revenge, he wanted to hurt and to be hurt, and in this blind fury he had taken a life, and left another life to die defenseless and alone.