–He continued his journey along the blackened pathways out of the broken cobbled streets of the Academy and towards the darkened uneven pathways of the Old Quarter. He did his best to avoid confrontation, whenever someone or something approached him he told them that he was going to see the Soothsayer. They left him alone.
His journey took a few hours it seemed to him, as he passed decaying buildings and ruins. He had arrived outside of the massive cathedral, which to him looked like it had been carved as if out of a mountain. In front of it was a statue that appeared to be leaking some kind of nasty smelling fluid. Like the gargoyles on the asylum before, the head of the statue seemed to follow him as he walked.
It had the same symbol on it that those men in robes had worn, which had been placed over the insignia of the church of the builder. He didn’t recognize the importance of the letters, but he knew that what lay beyond these doors was worse than anything else he’d encountered thus far.
He opened the doors and found that within the giant building were several pues, which had been thrown to the side and broken. In the center of the floor was a hole that lead to nothing. There was no feeling at all from within it except for dread.
In the back was the Soothsayer, a thin boy that rested on a cane and wore a top hat, his skin blackened and his veins had enlarged and were glowing blue, which was especially terrible where his flesh was now exposed. “You have come to hear the truth of your existence.”
Arnold stared at the boy apprehensively, he had remembered little of his time with the dark aether, but confronted with Jason Moriarty brought back the fateful encounter in the factory.
Moriarty gave a cold smile devoid of any joy or mirth, and then beckoned with one hand, blue lighting sparking out of it, for him to come forth, “Join me, and I shall show you what you have forgotten, and remove the lies.”
The cat steadied himself and moved forward tensely, gripping his bag and sheathed sword in each paw, silently walking around the hole, his boots creating an echo from the nothingness nearby, as he joined Moriarty on the other side. He stood there only a moment before Moriarty turned and lighting arched from his hand and tore apart the floor near the overturned alter. Arnold jumped back on all fours, tense and ready to run, but Moriarty stopped when an uneven round hole had been created.
A strange pool of liquid began to fill it, images danced across it, fighting one another to be dominant. Images of Arnold himself, events that he had no recollection of at all. Moriarty stepped forward and touched the pool once and it turned black. Afterwards he turned back to the cat, “Drink.”
Arnold stared up at him for a few moments, “What is it?”
“The truth about yourself,” Moriarty replied as he raised his hand again, flesh falling from his dead fingers as they crackled with energy, “Your memories. If you do not drink, I shall fulfill my role and release you from your chains.”
Moriarty could destroy him without the need to poison him, so Arnold approached the pool slowly. He peered below and then began to lap at the dark liquid.
He had barely begun to drink when he gripped his head as terrible memories returned. Lightning arcing from the sky, the crack in the wall, the bullet piercing his head and side, blood that he spilled fighting for his life…these were memories that were overshadowed by something more terrible.
He could see clearly now a cat that washed his paws no less than six times. A cat that tested food prepared even by close friends for poison. Who hadn’t even trusted Blackberry Harvey until he had been shot for standing up for Dr. Maddox, the same friend he had once threatened to drown in a bathtub in a moment of instability. He could clearly remember pacing in the desert muttering to himself while the sun baked his mind and he was trapped in his own thoughts. Moments of insanity where he had been no better than the people he had taken care of in the asylum.
This went against everything that people had told him what he was, his friends who had known him since he had come to New Babbage had known he was troubled, but had spared him the details hoping that he need never remember them. He had not been prepared to learn what he had been, and the images didn’t end. The memories continued to flood back, growing more vivid until finally Arnold saw himself laying on a bed in the first Sneaky Vole, his eyes black and unseeing, his arms and body fading from existence. And beyond that he had remembered the time that he had made his choice, and that he had intended to cease to exist.
Arnold thrashed about on Stormy’s bed, tearing apart the sheets and unresponsive as Lilith called for help. Zaros and Stormy came into the room as the cat continued to thrash about.