“Quite apart from the fact that we usually pay so dearly for our follies, we should be generous about them, to ourselves and others. Yes, we always pay for them, and sometimes the smallest indiscretions cost as much as the largest.”
What have I done?
We had the chance to gather all the information that we’d need, and I fucked it up by acting impulsively. Now we’re stuck here, freezing to death, on the side of this damn mountain… I’ve always believed that if you were unwilling to save one person, then the rest of the world wouldn’t be worth saving. Now I see my error, and all too late. I’ve made so many missteps along the way, that now I may have doomed our entire effort.
I’ve fallen victim to myself, and I don’t know how to fix it.
Tiny is asleep next to me… I told her how I felt outside the pass, and I was honestly surprised when she said that she felt the same way. In truth, she’s the one good thing that has come out of this, and the only thing I’ve done right.
But now I fear for, even that. We’re likely to die here, and all because of my ego. It’s just that I… I can’t protect her, nor anyone it seems. The one thing I promised myself, and I’m incapable of doing it.
Anyway, self pity isn’t getting me anywhere, so that’s enough of that.
Right now I have to figure out how to get whatever proof Rindhardt needs, and get us the bloody hell out of here.
We were camped in the woods, just out of sight of the pass. It was getting cooler, so just before dusk we were all sitting together around the fire. I don’t really know what came over me, but I felt compelled to talk.
Maybe it was nostalgia, maybe the thought of my own mortality, but I think it was something else. For some reason the fire, the cool fall night, and Finean’s lute provided a backdrop that called for a story.
So I told one, and for once I didn’t lie.
It’s funny, that when someone tells a personal story, others seem compelled to join in. (I’ve used that to my advantage before.) I was surprised that after I finished, Tiny who was sitting next to me, spoke up. When she did, it hit me.
I’d realized weeks before that my feelings for her transcended friendship. So, as the others took turns sharing a story, I scribbled a note. Then, as everyone was starting to doze off, I slipped it to her.
She met me near the arch, and we talked for a while. I knew it wasn’t wise to slip away from camp, but what have I done recently that could be considered smart?
Don’t answer that.
Anyway, we figured there was no use in hiding it, so we returned together. All in all, I think everyone took it well, if they cared at all, and after taking a watch we slept.
The next morning, as we were packing our gear, Finean shouted, “Who’s there!” I cringed at the noise, and told everyone to stay put. I slipped into the woods, and put my eye on the pass quickly enough to see a large group of captives being led by four mercenary types. I ran back, and told everyone except Hazelf to follow me. This is where my error really started.
They say the road to The Abyss is paved with good intentions, and if that’s the case… I’m spreading rocks like a sonofabitch.
I never considered the fact that it might be worth leaving those people to their fates while we gathered intelligence. I never thought about the fact that whoever was in that mountain would miss their next shipment of laborers. I never thought about how many more might die by letting these few live…
Was I wrong? I honestly don’t know.
Without thinking I motioned to the rest, broke cover, and closed on the last man. I wanted to kill him quietly, but he turned just before I struck.
Before I knew it, three of them surrounded me. I heard fighting behind me, but I couldn’t do anything about it. We had the numbers, so it was a fairly easy fight. A Hellhound came from somewhere, and injured Tiny.
Fortunately Hazelf had herd the fight, and was there to heal everyone, but as he did the reality of what I had caused set in.
I cursed my lack of foresight, and ordered the bodies to be hidden along with the chains. I figured we only had a day or two before someone noticed them missing, so with the grateful few that we’d rescued, we set out for Four Corners.
In the group there were several children, and they made it a little easier to justify my rash behavior. I wonder how many will die so that they can live? I hope whatever they do with their lives make it worthwhile. But that’s not their burden.
It’s mine, and I’ll own it.
We reached Four Corners in five days… It should have taken three at most. The people thanked us, and were gone.
We headed straight for the mayors mansion where we were greeted by a surprised Faelin. He ordered baths, and rooms for us, but I asked for a word immediately. While the others were getting settled in, I told him everything. I don’t like putting all my faith in one person, (Well, with one exception.) but I didn’t really have a choice. I knew that he’d tell Reindhardt, but telling Faelin first would cut a lot of red tape.
I asked for messages to be sent to any of our potential allies, and I stressed the need for urgency.
“I need an army”, I told him flatly.
He nodded with some apprehension, and had a servant to show me to a room with John, and Finean. Seeing the arrangement I quickly excused myself, and found Tiny’s chambers. It was there that Reinhardt found us in an… awkward position. (For him anyway.)
He excused himself, and I was promptly told to, “get off” to which I adamantly expressed my intention to do just that.
After a relatively short scolding I found the Mayor in his office. He confirmed that Faelin had honored my request, but also that he did not intend to help sponsor an army on supposition alone. I agreed, and told him that if he would help orchestrate the massing of troops, we would find a hard target. I relayed everything that we had found so far. Admittedly, the whole thing sounded preposterous, but coupled with his own experience dealing with the three horns, Reinhardt was receptive. He showed me a map, and said that it should be reasonably accurate. He pointed out another possible entrance to the pass, and I asked to have a copy drawn up for the team.
He agreed, and after a brief admonishment I was excused.
We spent the next day resting, and gathering supplies. Tiny, and myself didn’t get out much, and I think the others went to pray or something. I’m pretty sure that John spent the afternoon sampling the local taverns, and by all accounts everyone enjoyed the short respite.
The morning after, we were refitted, and had horses drawn for the rest of the team. Tiny was given a pony, but elected to stay with me, riding Stranger. It was good to have a pack animal though, so the extra supplies were lashed to the smaller animal.
We reach the outskirts of the city where we paused, and I showed them the map. We set our general direction, and rode hard over the next few days. Every night we passed the map around so that everyone could begin to memorize it.
Eventually we found the place. It is a dark, winding, and foreboding trail, that seems to snake its way into the very sky. Looking up, I was filled with a deep dread in the pit of my stomach.
We hobbled all the horses, except for Stranger, packed our supplies, and began to climb. The first day wasn’t too bad. The temperature change at night was palpable, but manageable. The last two days though… every night has been worse. We sleep huddled together with only a small fire for warmth. We can’t risk being seen, so a heavy camp is out of the question.
Everyone is tired, but we have to get something. Some kind of proof. We’ve come so far, but I’m afraid of what happens next.
Everyone is shivering in their sleep while I write, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
If only I had thought twice… There’s no time for that now. Everything that I care about is right here on this mountain, and I have to get us out of here somehow. It’s just that I’m not very good at any of this.
PS: if we make it out of here, remind me to buy better socks. My feet are freezing.