A drop of blood from his dirtied sword seeped through Izandre’s scabbard and fell silently to the stones below leaving a dark, crimson mark on the previously pristine floor. Noticing it, I quietly bent over and began to clean it immediately – we were in the Monastery of the Lordsent after all.
Being one of the most grandeur structures of the perfection obsessed nation of Enalia, the Monastery was nothing less than breathtaking. The entirety of the building was made of polished Gleam, much like every other building in the country, but was abnormally ornate. While other political and religious structures were expertly crafted, they lacked the neat intricacy that was present in the main chamber of the Monastery. I’d never seen anything like it. Enormously large and crafted by the best Enalian has to offer, the detail put into the building would leave any visitor in awe. The finished stones that made up the floor were laid so exactly that the seams where they met couldn’t be seen unless closely examined. The walls featured detailed and beautiful etchings of scenes from Enalian history. The ceiling was made of glass supported by thin Gleam joists. Etched on the side of the glass facing the sky were fantastical patterns that created dancing shadows on the floor which were made lightened by the clouds above. The entire room seemed tinted gray by the darkened light.
I looked to my left to see Izandre taking in the glory of the main chamber, his white armour shining in the light. Architecture had always fascinated him. He stood more than a head taller than me, and weighed nearly twice as much with his armour on. Athletic and handsome, he was the perfect example of the perfect Enalian.
“Ahh welcome Grand Champion!” excitedly exclaimed a voice from our right. The sound echoed through the chamber.
Izandre and I both turned, snapped out of our moments of awe, to see a man walking towards us. His figure was covered in a white, seamless robe and his body completely devoid of any hair. A bright smile radiated from his face which, in conjunction with the white robes, made his skin appear darker than the normal citizen. He was unmistakably a Monk of the Immaculate, servant of the Lordsent.
“I see you have yet to take off your armour, would you like us to assist you with that?” the man asked confidently as he approached us.
“I’m alright, thank you. I would just like to meet the Lordsent,” Izandre stated rather blatantly.
I was slightly thrown off by his rude demeanor. I know Izandre had some disdain for the Monks, but I never would’ve imagined he’d display it so plainly. The Monk, however, seemed unfazed.
“I’m glad for your enthusiasm. If you both are done taking in the main chamber,” (I found it odd that he used the word both since, being a side-boy, I was rarely recognized in formal situations), “I can bring you now to the Lordsent’s quarters.”
“The sooner the better. I’m tired from the Tournament and would like as much time as possible with the Lordsent before I take to my bed.” With that, we started across the chamber to an opening located on the far wall.
Lead by the Monk, we began our walk through the halls of the Monastery. Every bit of the corridors were as intricate and brilliantly built as the Main Chamber. The entire structure was constructed of overly refined Gleam that gave the walk a supernal air. Every passageway had a unique etching that was so finely sketch into the stone that it could only be seen when light struck the entry in just the right way. The walls featured stunning depictions of what appeared to be blueprint like drawings for many of Enalia’s greatest structures. Light found its way into the halls from skylights of glass that were etched in the same way as those in the main chamber which created patterns of light and dark across the floor. From the way that the skylights kept getting higher and higher the more that we walked, it appeared that we were slowly going down into the sub-earth.
As we passed an etching on the right of the Monastery itself, I looked to my left to see an opening in the previously unpenetrated wall. Although the inside was dimly lit (probably due to some Enalian glass trickery) I could still tell that the room was massive in size as well as littered with the shadows of structures that appeared to be gravestones and mausoleums.
Izandre had obviously noticed. Leaning towards me, he whispered solemnly:
“The stones look beautiful, much better than what my mother received.”
I remember that day; it hadn’t been a particularly unusual day. Mid-week and the sky was overcast. Up until the disaster, nothing out of the ordinary had happened in Enalia. I think that’s why the crowd got so large. I was there, standing next to my uncle, in the thrall of people surrounding Izandre’s house. The house’s roof was on fire and the the Gleam supports that were situated around the outside reflected the brilliant display of dancing flames. As I watched, its structural integrity slowly dwindled.
It wasn’t until just moments before the house collapsed that a young Izandre, little more than an adolescent, burst through the front door of the burning building. His face was blackened by ash and his clothes were torn and ripped. Two winding trails of unaltered complexion were carved out through the black on his face by the tears that streamed from his eyes. The boy, who at this point I had never met, ran forward a safe distance from his house towards the crowd and then stopped. There was a moment of complete and utter stillness, an expression of utter disbelief blatant on the boys face. He then collapsed to the ground. Some olders from the crowd ran to assist the boy as the house imploded on itself.
The next week, I found out that Izandre’s mother had died in that fire. Somehow, coals had spilled out onto the hearth and the blaze had quickly spread throughout the home. Smelling the smoke, Izandre had ran in search for his mother but after minutes of looking, he gave up noticing the house was about to collapse.
It wouldn’t be until a few years later that Izandre and I would officially meet. A day never goes by that he doesn’t think about his mother’s death. Personally, I think the fact that he wasn’t able to save her haunts him (he always seems to have terrible nightmares).
As we continued our walk through the shining corridors of the inner Monastery, we progressed ever downwards. We passed many more etchings on the wall and an even greater number of doors but no more openings like the one that had led to the pseudo-cemetery. The Monk that was leading us didn’t so much as utter a single word the entire time so the only noise that filled our heads was that of our own footsteps echoing off the surrounding architecture.
“Where do you think all these doors lead to?” Izandre asked me in an interested tone, leaning so close that the pungent smell of his sweat that remained from the Tournament filled my nostrils .While the scent that now assailed my nose wasn’t welcomed the break in the seemingly impenetrable silence was.
Before I could reply, Izandre answered his own question.
“The Monks of the Immaculate are a queer group, who knows what type of rituals are held in this place. I bet all these rooms are used for their strange ceremonies.” Although he was whispering, I still worried that our guide may have heard him. Noticing my worried glance, Izandre attempted to reassure me.
“Don’t worry, he didn’t hear me and even if he did, I doubt he’d do anything. The Monks are weak and act only to worship the Lordsent. I prefer to act out his will by relinquishing the world of the weak through the Tournament. I’m good at it too.”
His contempt towards their Order was blatantly obvious.
Before becoming a Tournament Fighter, Izandre was something completely different. He was a devout. Obsessed with the idea of perfection and always striving towards it, he was completely single minded. The Lordsent became more than a leader, more than even a deity to Izandre. He became a goal. Something to strive for. Izandre became completely engulfed in the Lordsent and his religion. He considered the teachings that he received from his local churches and the masses at the Monastery regarding perfection and elimination of mistakes as not guidelines of life, but rather tenants. He became so obsessed, he decided that he must do one thing: meet the Lordsent.
Now that is a nearly impossible feat. Even many high ranking government officials never get the opportunity to meet the Lordsent so for an orphaned adolescent to be given the opportunity would be unheard of. Still, this didn’t stop Izandre from trying. Knowing that there was only a few ways of accomplishing his goal, he chose what seemed to be the obvious one and attempted to gain entry into the Monks of the Immaculate. Only higher ranking members are allowed access to the Lordsent’s chambers but it seemed like the easiest way to Izandre at the time.
Being the way he was and so devout to the Lordsent’s teachings, he, and myself to be completely honest, fully believed he would be accepted into the elite group. So, as you could imagine, we were taken by surprise by Izandre’s almost instant denial.
“I’m sorry, but after a meeting of the Elders, you have been denied entry to the Order,” the Monk had said flatly. “If you would like, you may reapply one revolution from this day. Lordsent’s blessings.”
Naturally, Izandre was deeply disappointed by this but being the determined, and slightly obsessive, person he is, he persisted and applied next revolution. The results were the same and again he waited a revolution to reapply. Again it was denial. Izandre became enraged by the constant denials and finally gave up. He believed it was the Monks who were denying him for their own selfish reasons, obviously threatened by his devoutness and knowledge of the Lordsent’s teachings. Abandoning his desires to join the Monks of the Immaculate and with it his respect for members of their Order, he decided to take a different path.
From what he remembered of his father’s stories before his death, Tournament Fighters also had the opportunity to meet the Lordsent, but becoming one was no simple commitment. Fighters were required to enter at least one Tournament a revolution which typically consisted of eight participants. In the Tournament, every match was a single elimination fight to the death where the winner’s reward was pride, honour and a lump sum of cash. The concept was that the death of your opponent signified their personal incompetency and therefore those who survived were deemed closer to perfection and their elimination of a more flawed person justified. If a single Fighter won at least two Torunaments in a given revolution, they were entered into the Final Tournament at the end of each revolution. The winner of the Final Tournament was granted the title of Grand Champion and allowed entry to the chambers of the Lordsent for one night. This was the path that Izandre had chosen to take and luckily for him, his determination proved useful in his efforts.
“This is the last turn and the Lordsent’s chambers will be directly ahead,” the Monk said as we rounded a corner. “He is expecting you and you may enter immediately.”
Giving a sidewards glance at Izandre, the Monk continued by saying in a slitghly rude tone, “Now before you enter, please try to make yourself presentable. The Lordsent expects the best.”
Sensing the patronizing tone in the Monk’s voice, Izandre tensed up immediately, clenching his fist.
“I apologize if the blood of the flawed and sweat of the victorious stain my clothes. I was doing the bidding of Lordsent,” Izandre fired back in a less than subtle shot at the Monk.
“Oh no, I understand. I just thought that the Grand Champion would be able to clean himself off a bit before meeting someone of such grandeur.”
“And you’re so tidied yourself? I don’t understand how someone like you managed to reach .such a high position in the Monks,” Izandre forced out through clenched teeth. He was becoming very visibly angry. As we continued to make our way down the very long hall,the argument between Izandre and the Monk progressed rapidly.
“Ah, I’m not in such a high position. I’ve never met the Lordsent, I’m just your guide. But even so, a low ranking member like me still far exceeds someone like you who couldn’t even gain entry.”
Izandre’s face turned red. He bit his lip fiercely in order to prevent the words that I knew were burning inside of him from coming out. It appeared as if it was causing him physical pain restraining himself in such a way.
I noticed a small hint of a smile on the face of the Monk as it appeared as if he had won the dispute. As his head turned to face forward again, a tiny misstep caused him to stumble ever so slightly.
Before I could even think to react, Izandre drew his sword from his scabbard and in one fluid motion, separated the Monk’s head from his body. as the figure collapsed to the ground, his previously pristine robes began to become soaked in the deep scarlet of his own blood .Moments after his torso hit the floor, his head joined it and then all was silent.
Izandre quickly looked at me with a raged hysteria in his eyes that I’ve only ever seen him possess when in the midst of one of his Tournament fights.Turning towards the door at the end of the hallway, Izandre quietly said:
“He’ll thank me for the removal of a Faulted.”
That last word seemed to resonate repeatedly in my mind. I was always taken aback when I heard it uttered and to hear Izandre accuse someone of being one shocked me. The Faulted were common knowledge but only ever spoken of in hushed tones and whispers in the darkest corners of Enalia’s most abrasive taverns. Their crimes against the Government and the Lordsent were unforgivable and their punishment unspeakable. It is said that the Lordsent and only the Lordsent is able to determine if one is to have committed such crimes as to be named a Faulted. So to accuse someone of being one meant that Izandre was bordering on hysterical. He had taken over the responsibility of the Lordsent. He had given himself the responsibility of a God.
Izandre began to run towards the door at the end of the hallway leaving the divided and bloodied body of the Monk behind. Scared, confused and following revolutions of practiced habits, I chased after him down the white corridor.
As the distance between us and the door shortened, I began to sense an unusual presence. I felt as if I could almost hear the quiet ramblings of a madman constantly playing in my head. If I focused hard enough, I could almost make out what he was saying. It seemed the closer we got to the door, the louder the voice became but never did the unintelligible mumblings become comprehensible.
Izandre was now only a few strides away from the (surprisingly) wooden door and showed no sign of slowing his pace. I lagged a decent ways behind but even at this distance I could sense the fierce determination radiating from him. As he approached the door, he lowered his shoulder and forced his entry into the room that laid behind it. It gave with little resistance and he stumbled into what was supposed to be the Lordsent’s Chambers with Impressive speed. After only a few more strides though, he stopped as if frozen by what he saw. After only a few seconds, I joined him by his side and saw what had made him halt his crazed dash.
The room had no furniture, no windows, no doors besides the one we had entered from. The room appeared to be lighted from the floor and no carpets obstructed this source. Just four walls, a ceiling and a floor of sheer Gleam. In the center of the floor, however, laid a figure.
The figure was small and grossly mutilated. It appeared to be the disconfigured form of a small and fragile man. The man had only a torso and head, all limbs crudely removed from the body. His ears were ripped and torn apart until very little was felt except two bandaged holes in the side of his head. The places where his eyes should have been were completely devoid of optics and the surrounding flesh scarred and gashed. The area surrounding his mouth was also greatly scarred and his lips sewn together in such a way that it could not be opened at all. Much like the Monks of the Immaculate, the figure’s body was completely devoid of any hair. He was tightly wrapped in a white, seamless robe similar to that worn by the Monks. Seemingly helpless, the man laid in the center of the floor without moving.
Hello Lokiano, Izandre. If you haven’t gathered by now, I am the Lordsent.
The voice I heard was slow, calculated and soothing. It wasn’t heard through my ears but rather in my mind. It was as if the voice had joined and overridden the personal narrator in my head. By the look of shock on Izandre’s face, I could tell he could “hear” the voice too.
As I’m sure you have many questions I ask that you please don’t speak until I am done properly introducing myself. I realize that I may be a lot to take in at once but you must understand that I look the way I do because of my condition. You see, I’ve been cursed. Long ago, I made the mistake of wishing for perfection and you can see very clearly what it has done to me.
The entire time he talked, his body never moved.
Every aspect of my being was turned “perfect.” My hearing is so attuned that I can hear every voice throughout all of Enalia, as well as all their thoughts. The tremendous roar of their communication overwhelms my mind. I can see everything, from everyone with my enhanced vision. The sight of every individual is shared with my own making it impossible to decipher any images. My sense of taste and smell is so fine that anything I try to consume or breath in seems like nothing more than a blazing inferno, incinerating my senses. My voice is so powerful that any word I utter can be heard by any individual with the ability to hear. My skin is so sensitive that anything I touch feels like nothing. I simply can’t feel due to the complete and utter override of the textures I touch. The resulting numbness and extrapolation from the world is unbearable.
You see, my senses are so perfectly attuned that they completely overwhelm my mind in every facet. In an attempt to curb this, I’ve had to completely mutilate my body in order to even border on remaining sane. I’ve gouged out and had my eyes removed so now all I see is impenetrable darkness. I tore my ears from my body and bandaged them in order to reduce the amount of voiced they receive and allow my mind some sanctuary. My mouth is sewn so that I may never utter a word or sound and so no incinerating flavours may ever touch my tongue. I have filled my detector with wax in order to allow no smells to enter. I have artificially paralyzed myself as well as removed all unnecessary appendages, forcing my body to never move allowing the painfully numbing sensation of touch to be constant but controlled. All this in an attempt to save myself from my own perfection.
A small sideways glance at Izandre showed that he was standing in speechless awe, mouth slightly opened as he listened to what the Lordsent has to say.
I have found that perfection in and of itself is inherently flawed and yet an entire nation has risen around the worship of it. The truth is, my Monks are the only ones of this country that realize this. We’re not an Order established to worship perfection, but rather destroy it. That’s why you never gained entry Izandre. Your obsession with perfection and determination to obtain it is the exact type of qualities we wish to rid Enalia of.
“If that’s the case then why did you and your Order preach the opposite to me since I was a child?” Izandre exclaimed talking for the first time since entering the room.
In architecture, if a solid foundation is not first established, the entire building is doomed to inevitably collapse. The same applies to our unique group. We must first gain the appreciation and acceptance from society in order expand our ranks before we can effectively overturn the common mind-set. By preaching what they wish to hear, we ensure our prosperity as we quietly handselect those that we believe to be able to agree with what we truly believe to join our family.
“So are you saying that poor excuse of a Monk back there that I extinguished for you didn’t believe in anything he was saying?” Izandre’s initial shock was wearing off and was being replaced with anger.
That was not an actual member of the Monks. He was an extremely low ranking recruit who we were observing to see if he had potential. Your anger, however, ended that. Can’t you see how your search for perfection has been nothing but a detriment? Your quest is futile. You will never be able to reach true potential without becoming me. The only perfection that truly exists in this world is that we’re all perfectly imperfect and always will be.
Izandre’s hand found the hilt of his sword. Slowly drawing it, he took step towards the figure.
“Imperfection means flaws and flaws mean weakness. It was imperfection that caused my mother’s death. A mistake. Had I been more diligent, more responsible, better, she may still be alive. It was flaws that caused all the deaths of the people I had to kill in order to meet you. My entire life has been a constant strive to talk to you, to be able to finally become the perfect version of me. And now you’re saying I can’t be that? I can’t improve myself?”
You don’t understand. There is always room for improvement but it can only be done through intrinsic desire and self-evaluation. There’s no, single, gold standard to meet. No one can truly be without flaws and those flaws are what make you, you. Perfection is absolute. You are an individual. Without your flaws and incompetencies, nothing separates you from any other Enalian that walks through the streets. It’s your imperfections that make life unpredictable and therefore worth living. It’s your imperfections that keep you from becoming me. Cherish them.
Izandre took another step towards the Lordsent. His sword was now fully out its scabbard and raised in position. He paused for a few moments as he looked at the mutilated figure that lay before him on the ground. I wondered if the Lordsent knew what was going through Izandre’s head. Suddenly, he spoke.
“If perfection is flawed then nothing is true. My mother died because of my mistake and yet I stand here, unscathed. I’ve wanted nothing more than to be perfect my entire life and I still strive for that goal. You tell me that my flaws are what make life worth living, then why do you deserve to be alive?”
Izandre took another step towards the motionless body.
“If being perfect means death, then my choice is made.”
With that, Izandre struck with his sword. Not at the Lordsent, however. He, instead, struck himself in gut, finding a gap in the armour. Slowly he collapsed, blood seeping through his clothes and onto the blade that had taken so many lives before him. The slightest look of contentment appeared and then soon faded from his face.
I looked at his now breathless body in shock. Izandre had always been such a proud and confident person and now his figure lay silent and crumpled. It was then that I heard the voice in my head.
To live is to be flawed. Learn to love your flaws and you’ll learn to love life. And for those who can’t, death is the only alternative.