FACTIONS: PILLARS OF THE GREAT VOW
Full disclosure, when I was diagnosed with Keratoconus, I was terrified. I’d spent my childhood watching the disease dismantle my mom’s vision, and I wasn’t excited to weather those same storms.
So, when my eyesight held fast at 20/20, well past my 18th birthday, everyone thought I was in the clear.
A decade later, when things went blurry, I knew, even if the eye doctor had to run a few tests to confirm. I remember not saying much on the way home. I just sat there in the passenger seat, eyes closed, and felt the sun on my face. To cope, I got lost in my imagination, desperate to find something, anything I could pour hope into instead of despair.
THE WAYWARD FIST
Kir was spent when he reached the summit of the Temple Ascending. His limbs were useless, and the cold air burned as he tried to swallow it in frantic gulps. It was only the sound of a familiar and hated voice coming in from somewhere in his periphery that shook the glue from his joints.
“Welcome brother, come, sit; you must be exhausted.”
Master Shin clapped his hands, and a swarm of attendants descended on Kir. Each of them dutifully removing the burden of his yoke with great care. Despite their best efforts, the process left blood and torn skin everywhere. Oblivious to the pain, Kir stared out at the abiding faces of the others who completed the climb. They seemed so frail, leaning their chests into angled chairs as attendants applied salves to the ruined flesh crisscrossing between their shoulders. Infuriated and refusing to wither under the agony, Kir shrugged off his attendants and limped over to a nearby perch where food and water waited patiently for attention. Master Shin couldn’t help but smile at the man’s indomitable stubbornness.
“Good… good, eat; you’ll need the extra strength if YOU plan to survive the Great Vow.”
Kir heard the added emphasis on the word you, and the hate in his belly bubbled over again. He hadn’t considered pushing back until he heard himself do it, and by then, it was too late to stop.
AN UNHEWN EDGE
For those that survived the Great Vow, it was always the same. First, your eyes would turn from their natural color to a milky, cataract-filled white. Then, over the course of a few days, an agonizing fissure would slowly carve its way down your forehead. Finally, when the opening was large enough, the bright lips of the wound would peel back to reveal an Emerald Dragon’s eye.