“If you never tell anyone the truth about yourself, eventually you start to forget. The love, the heartbreak, the joy, the despair, the things I did that were good, the things I did that were shameful—if I kept them all inside, my memories of them would start to disappear. And then I would disappear.”
How do I even start?
Everything that we have experienced in the past weeks, and what has led us to this point is almost indescribable. My feelings are raw, and that is very difficult to admit.
We are at Lover’s Pass now, and I am even more unsettled. Whatever is here, I saw in my dream, and whatever I saw was obviously from a time long before… only now am I beginning to understand, and I wish that I could say I was relieved.
After I had killed the zombie that hurt me, I looked back to see Tiny standing over Hazelf. She was obviously taken by the rage, so I shouted for everyone to get back. I thought that I could calm her down, so I approached.
She hit me.
I stumbled, but managed to stay standing. We circled, and I tried talking to Tiny. I hoped that she would recognize me, but nothing seemed to work. Just before I moved in to attempt disarming her, she blinked.
“Renn… what happened?”, she asked, as a wave of relief washed over me. I assured her that everything was alright, but in the back of my mind I wondered. She hadn’t been injured… I asked what brought it on, and she swore that she didn’t know. I have trouble reading her, but I don’t think she was telling me the whole truth.
The fear crept back, and I knew that we had to get to Arcanaya soon.
Without time to stop, and rest we entered the tower single file. What happened next was very quick, and honestly I don’t remember all of it.
We climbed the old dilapidated steps, and after a few close calls a step gave way under Tiny. She didn’t fall far, but I it knocked the breath out of her. Ever more cautious, we finally reached the top.
It was there we saw the thing…
The Swamp Litch.
To make a long story short, we killed him. It was not easy, and his skeletons gave the team a run for their money.
In the end Dar’Med severed its head, and I reached down to examine the crown that it was wearing. Hazelf warned me not to touch it, so instead I grabbed the head itself.
I was racked by an icy pain, as frost hissed across my armor. (I’m starting to make a habit of this, and I’m not sure that it’s good for my health.) Fortunately John had his trusty pair of gloves, and he deposited to head into a bag, which was given to Hazelf. I told him to make for the barge as quickly as he could. If we didn’t make it out, that thing needed to be disposed of.
Escaping from the island was no easy task. The spiders were everywhere. Shadows that reached from all sides spawned nightmares that belong only in stories.
Dar’Med went down. I left the group, and killed the spider on top of him. All I remember is that I picked him up, and ran.
We were all running. The trees reached out for us, as if the island itself wanted to keep us there. We had taken something powerful, and it wanted something in return.
By the time we reached the barge Hazelf, and Zoltac had re-killed a passel of zombies. John had put (an unhappy) Tiny onboard, and after Margaret made an appearance,
we began to work our way out of the swamp.
We camped that night, and I was continually in fear of being attacked. Whatever we had discovered, someone else was looking for. Throughout the return trip, I was constantly scanning the water ahead looking for a sign of trouble.
That trouble finally came as we approach the docks at Marsh-Side…
We saw, at distance, what could’ve only been Tor’Mastok, and Zoltac ordered us into the water.
I clung to Tiny as Margret’s tail swished below us, and my lungs screamed for air. After an eternity we heard three taps, which indicated all-clear. I stuck my head above the water, and Zoltac pointed quietly toward the direction that they’d gone. He asked me to give his regards to his father as he handed me back the tooth…
I was surprised, but didn’t have time to dwell on it.
We cleared the water, and grabbed random cargo, as we proceeded around the waterfront. Eventually we found a boat, and I negotiated passage back to Marsh-Hold.
After some time, we had our horses, and were riding north. Tiny was behind me, and with her arms around my waist, I could feel the heat radiating stronger than it ever had before. That only made me push harder, and within a few days we could see the city gleaming on the horizon.
Hazelf knew the town from his youth, and found us a decent room at a Dwarven inn. Shorty after, he arranged a meeting with his old master.
He, Tiny, and myself went, where we found an older, severe looking human, and he moved behind a huge oak desk. The Bishop was austere, and talked down to Hazelf. I began to realize that his natural trepidation was a learned behavior, and probably why Hazelf struggles with so much self-doubt.
When my turn came, I brooked little discussion.
Hazelf presented him with the Lich King’s head, and I told him that it was a gift, and that I expected something in return. He sat back, obviously intrigued. From the shelf, he produced an old children’s book, which contained dozens of fairytales. He read a legend, centuries old, which told of an ancient darkness located in the heart of Serpent’s Marsh. He slid the book to me, and offered it as payment for the crown. I gave it to Hazelf, and got to my real point.
I asked whether or not they could cleanse someone of Sonara’s touch, and he said that it would take time. I agreed to wait, and he said that he would send a runner when they were ready.
We spent the next days pouring over the book, and the more that Hazelf read, my perception focused on all that we’d been through. The one that stood out was the tale of the Horde. An ancient beast which had destroyed a Dwarven Clanhome set deep into a mountain, somewhere in the Wildlands. Trouble was, The Hoard had not been seen in centuries.
The more he read, the clearer my picture became. What the Interloper had shown me in the dream… I shook my head clear the visions. I could see the bones again, and the ash burned acrid in my nose.
The horns, the mine… That wasn’t just a mine, and we were right there. We had been so close. So very, very close.
I couldn’t breathe. The Raven had shown me the past, not the future, and I cursed my own stupidity. I had interpreted my dream wrongly, which led to the incident with The Bitch.
The trees which arched over the pathway… The cavern… It was all there, but I lacked the foresight to understand it then. As the ghosts swirled around me, I could feel the demons of the past reaching through the ages, grasping at the present.
“No. You can’t have them”, my mind screamed.
I started to panic.
Finean piped up, which knocked me out of the spiral, and said he knew the tale. I was obviously agitated, and he revealed that it was known as Lover’s Pass.
That was it. That’s where we had to go when all this was done. I knew that as much as we needed to go, this had to be done, and until it was I would remain unmoved.
Three days later, the message came, and Tiny, and myself were at the Church of Light. They let us into a small room, where we were greeted by a priest. He told me to stand aside, and he gestured for Tiny. We looked to one another, and within a moment the cleansing had begun.
I don’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it. I could only watch helplessly as the priest recited his incantations, and Tiny writhed violently on the floor. After what seemed like an eternity the ritual reached its crescendo, as ethereal flames dissipated across the floor.
When her eyes opened, the Priest stepped back with a sigh of relief. I was there in an instant, and when she’d caught her breath, I helped her to slowly rise.
I thanked the Priest, and we were gone.
We hurried back to the inn, and only after a brief meeting did I realize how famished I was. I think we all were. Over the last few days, I had simply forgotten to eat enough, and a steaming bowl of rabbit stew went down very easily. Well, the second one did. Tiny took my first, after I had insisted that she try it…
(This was in addition to several glasses of wine. Perhaps John is on to something?)
The next morning we were off, and riding again. We had a destination, but no idea what we would find. It would only make sense that our ultimate goal would be so close to where all this started, but somehow I felt that answers were still just beyond reach. I did note as we rode, that I did not feel the heat from Tiny, and that was the greatest relief of all.
Finean took point, and after many nights on the road, we arrived here. It’s not as I pictured it in my dream, but I know that this is the place.
As I ran my hand over the smooth, weatherworn stone, I was struck by an epiphany. I know what I should do now, and I curse myself for not realizing it sooner.
But maybe I did… Why couldn’t I see it then? I have hesitated for too long, but I will not make the same mistake. I was so focused on the past, that I never thought about the future, even though it was staring me in the face this whole time, or at least sense Four Corners
I just pray that I am not too late.
PS: I do not intend to engage directly. My goal is to gather as much reconnaissance as we can, and then we will need something bigger. We need an army.