Amon awoke, disoriented, his body laced in a chilled sweat. The pulse of adrenaline running through his body left him in tremors.
He shuddered as the image of Xande's twisted face filled his thoughts. That voice, his words...
Glancing around, the quiet Gridanian inn room looked so normal in contrast to his dreams. The lack of light outside the windows told him it was still the early hours.
Now came the difficult part. Another price for cheating death - this cloned body didn't always like to obey him. The mind instructed one thing. The body did what it wanted.
After much deliberation - this is still a work in progress - Amon finally managed to get his feet to drop to the floor, where he sat perched on the edge of the bed. He buried his face in his hands - a very natural reaction, good - and collected his thoughts for a long time.
Amon knew what his dreams were trying to tell him. Eventually, he couldn't keep avoiding things - namely his death - and hoping they'd go away.
It was odd. Most people get a tinge of fear when thinking about their future death. But for him, he avoided thinking about how it'd already happened.
The enemy storming up the flights of the huge Crystal Tower. His fevered attempts to set everything up, hoping that no wires were crossed and all crystals were charged.
He'd been ready for just this sort of invasion - living in an Empire built on bones and blood, he had to be prepared. But knowing something can happen is very different from experiencing that moment.
Amon had devised an aether transfer mechanism designed to place his soul within a clone of his younger self. If he should be slain - like he had been - the machine would activate upon his death and complete the transfer on its own.
The methods he used were still untested. It was a miracle it had worked at all. But Amon knew he'd taken a huge risk in being revived by the very same method that had driven Xande to madness.
How much longer did he have before he also paid the price?
These uneasy thoughts demolished any hopes he had of returning to sleep. Amon decided he may as well get up and try to clear his head. Stepping to the wash basin, he splashed his face with water. As he patted it dry with a towel, he took a moment to study himself in the mirror.
This clone was a recreation of himself from his younger days. He appeared to be in his early 20's, though he'd previously lived a much longer life than that. His boyish face and outwardly charming ways easily hid his troubled past to those who knew nothing about him.
Like any other Elezen, Amon was tall, long-necked and somewhat lanky. Whereas many of his race had innate grace, his cloned body was over-awkward with gangling limbs that often had a mind of their own. His pointed ears were longer than most of his kind, poking through unkempt silver hair that spilled down to his shoulders. His great height and his sharp golden eyes tended to attract unwanted attention.
Once he'd washed up, Amon decided to stretch his legs. It was still dark outside, but he knew the town was as safe and well-guarded as a backwater place could be. Still, he didn't escape the notice of the overseer of the Adventurer's Guild, Miounne, as he stepped out into the odd hour.
"Is everything okay, Amon?" she asked with a hint of concern, arching a motherly eyebrow over the top of paperwork she sorted.
Amon had been around long enough to be on a first-name basis with a few of the locals, such as Miounne. He knew that her worry for him was genuine, as it was for all travelers who passed through the inn.
"All is well, kind lady," he answered with a hint of jest. Then, he offered her a Bard's playful bow to off-set his lie.
She tisked her tongue at him, never one to fall for his charms. "What sort of trouble are you in now, sir?"
"In trouble? Me?" Amon gasped as if it was too scandalous to even consider. Then he phased into an easy smile, "I just decided to take in some early morning air, if 'tis alright."
"By all means," Miounne responded with a shake of her head and a slight smile of her own. Likely, she thought him walking off a drunk stupor, or such. That wasn't uncommon since the tavern and the inn shared the same grounds. "Let me know if you need anything, will you?"
"Aye, of course," Amon gave her another teasing bow before heading out through the tall wooden archway to what passed as the town's main street.
The sound of rushing water passing through the creaking waterwheel was lulling. The wind shifting through the ancient trees cast about the fragrance of flowers and life. Though the moon hung heavy on the horizon, the rustic peace of the forest town was still in every breath Amon took.
He wasn't fully certain how he'd ended up in Gridania, but a part of him was grateful for it. It was a good starting point for someone like him, who'd lost everything he ever had. Including a sense of direction.
Amon was starting from nothing in a world that had changed so much from the Empire he knew. The people were different, their cities and government were different, even the food was different!
Not having many options, Amon had chosen to embed himself within the local culture. There were plenty of jobs for adventurers in this town, and this gave Amon the opportunity to blend in and observe. The people accepted travelers moving about, as long as those travelers provided some benefit for their town. That seemed fair enough.
Amon had taken up training at the Archer's Guild. There, he found a chance to physically hone his mind-body coordination, something that this new body struggled with, through a rather focused and relaxing sport.
Once he had the basic skills, he took on odd jobs. From hunting, to culling, to reinforcing the guard... Amon managed to make enough to pay his room and board. It wasn't the glorious life of an Allagan Technologist that he was used to, but he was surviving.
I was doing so well. And now... who knows what's going to happen to me.
Dark dreams. The past closing in on him, dragging him back into the grave.
The past doesn't forget wickedness of my sort.
With all of the crimes he'd committed in his previous life, he didn't deserve a peaceful life among the common people. He knew very well that he'd not changed a bit.
If he saw an opportunity to regain his power and position back, he knew he'd drop this life in a heartbeat. It had never mattered who he had to step on to get the things he wanted before... it was no different now.
What am I doing here, trying to fool myself into thinking that I can live a quiet life? ‘Tis naught but mockery to sit waiting for madness to come and rip me apart.
One fist balled at his side, a motion his body made without a thought.
I'm made for things so much greater than this.
A deeper perspective fell into place as the last of the fireflies began to fade into the oncoming morning. He breathed in the clear air one last time, deciding what he needed to do.
Amon had to find his way back inside the Tower.
There, he would have access to his lab and the resources he needed to find a way to fix what was happening to him. Perhaps he'd restore the magic that he'd lost. Perhaps, he'd even once again master the power of Syrcus Tower, and restore himself to his rightful place as an Allagan Technologist.
If 'tis to be a curtain call for me, I'll make it a show this world will never forget.