Many creatures have felt the twinge of pain. The sharp, piercing, near-overwhelming sensation that fills you for just a second. Stubbing a toe. Having a feather ripped out. Falling from just a bit too high up. Not many creatures get to tell the story of the pain of their deaths. Many fantasize it is just a quick, silent moment of exquisite pain; over in a blink of an eye. Not many know the truth.
As the darkness, the ever-present and ever-growing nothingness around Dastan surrounded him, it became quite clear the pain he was in. You would have heard his screams if not for his inability to do so. Pulverized bones and flattened muscles are enough to bring even a battle-hardened Raven to tears, or would… if he could. It seemed like ages past, and at the same time as if time stood still. It is difficult to explain the sensation running through Dastan's mind more than just pain and confusion. Whether it was just a moment or eons, Dastan knew that his bones were reformed, his muscles filled in his body. Dastan was standing on nothing, yet not falling. Casting his eyes around, he saw he wasn't alone. Spirits filled the dead air. All of them seemed as unsure as he did. They looked intently forward. A mesmerizing voice shot through the air. It filled every crevice of Dastan's frame. A slow turn to look at this voice. In his heart he knew what he was going to see, even if he knew nothing of what it looked like. He shivered. If you have ever heard a foreign sound in your home and turn to look expecting to see something there and wishing not to, you know this shiver. Now, imagine that when you looked, you stood face to face with Death.
Dastan couldn't move. The host of spirits cowered slightly at his penetrating voice. Dastan seemed unable to focus, unable to grasp what had happened.
"There are some of you," Death whispered with such a profoundness. "There are some of you, who have a choice. To move on, see what the next life has in store for you, reap what you sow… or, to resolve unfinished destinies by taking the test of Requiem."
With a quick motion Dastan spoke out declaring, "I will take the test. I must return." Death seemed rather skeptical of Dastan's abrupt disclosure of his choice. "This is not a test that will favor the weak young Raven." Death's words were penetrating and subtle but nothing inhibited Dastan's resolve. "If you go, you must bring back to me an object of high importance."
"I must go!" Dastan's words were met by the outstretched hand of Death. A deal to be made, in order to go back. It was Dastan's turn to be skeptical. Eyeing Death, he took his hand and grasped firmly.
And with the slightest motion from Death, a door opened. And without hesitation, Dastan was through it.
Dastan awoke in what felt like water. His body was heavy as if sand had been poured into every open nook. The pain again was back. It filled every gritty crease and pore of skin. As time passed, Dastan was able to compose himself. He crawled out of the water and heaved himself onto a sandy beachfront. Wind passed over him, chilling in his current circumstances. Death leaves not a single worm for the birds. An open cave stood before the dismal body trying to stand in the sandbank. A light of hope for Dastan. He was practically raised in caves, and knew their terrain well. He hobbled over to the mouth of the cave, searching for help. A tent stood at the entrance, a small fire flicking in the wind. Dastan was approached by a man within the tent. Words were traded and the man saw fit to grant Dastan a bit of meat. A crazy and unhelpful old man in Dastan's eyes.
Some time passed as Dastan searched the inner workings of the caverns. A small tunnel lead to a pitch black room. Dastan had traversed many a cave in complete dark, but this seemed impenetrable, as if having a light wouldn't have helped. As he circled the walls, a small but quick metal slicing sound came from the darkness. Traps or perhaps he wasn't alone; Dastan didn't mind either notion very much. He came to a door with no proper handle. In its place was a dial, with 4 holes. Several attempts to open the door came to no avail. Each failure only worsened the impatience boiling up in Dastan. In a swift movement, he stuck his pinkie finger in the hole and spun it all the way around, and with a quick unsheathing and a swift slice. His finger fell to the floor. Dastan cried out in pain, and felt a small jab on his head from something behind him. Now was not the time to get stuck, nor to be stopped by this door. Dastan spun the dial the opposite direction and the door swung open. Quickly grabbing his dislodged finger, Dastan stepped inside and the door slammed hard against the cave formation, with him bodily against the wood.
Only one way to go, forward. Dastan was in too much pain from his hand and head to notice much about these next rooms. It was as if he handed the reigns over and the body knew what to do instinctively. More traps and more perils yet nothing hindered his progression through them. He eventually found two torches fastened tightly to the wall. He took the opportunity to cauterize his finger back on. Not the best medical work, but it was satisfactory for the raven.
Dastan was getting close to the end room, he could feel it. He took a step into a very open room. A sort of man slept pedestalled in the center, with an ogre cage nearby snoring away. The man awoke as soon as Dastan entered. Some annoying speech of how he always lies, three levers control awful fates that can befall you, but one will open the next door and lead to freedom. Nonsense and confusion rang in Dastan's ears, but he went to the levers. Dastan didn't really care for the dangers except one. The Ogre. Still slothfully asleep, that seemed the least dangerous of them all, and it would at least buy time. "Which would release the Ogre?" Dastan slyly spoke. "The far left."
Now Dastan had to evaluate the man. Was he one to lie? Or was he one to get things over quickly? So many questions, the blabbering of this man, the room itself only aided to confuse Dastan further. "The far right one is the lever for the ogre, the left is for the spikes."
Which is which!? Dastan was getting impatient again, and he wasn't going to die now. The last time he just went for it, he lost a finger. "How about you strike up a deal with me?" The man asked pridefully.
Great… another deal. Dastan barely listened to the particularities but joined the man at the center and shook his hand. "The center lever is the one to freedom." Without a second thought, Dastan left and pulled the lever. Freedom smelled sweet, the wind from the room beyond was refreshing to Dastan. Without even a look back, he passed into the next room and took a nice deep breath. If Dastan could finish this test, how hard would a test of Death be? How difficult could this test of Requiem prove?