Descent of Darkness

New plans
into Dreshnaul

So here we are at the fire after talking to Sorcha; all of us arguing in vain to try to find a course of action we all agree on. Where do we go from here? To the elves to try and get into the library? Try and persuade the dragons to head to this dimension? And who exactly was Sorcha talking about when she said someone is supposed to meet us in two days time…someone who is looking for us? It is all too vague for my liking. It could be anyone – good or bad! I go and get Lorne and he joins the discussion for a little while but eventually Lorne, Gareth, Waryk, and Gattican all leave, leaving only the four of us who closed the portals to decide on where and how we want to proceed. My gut clenches – it is a lot to expect only four people to decide on a course that may affect the fate of the entire world. And we do not generally all agree on things either. Plus we have been missing in action for three years! I take a deep breath, though, and try and concentrate on the moment at hand. I am here and I have vowed to do all in my power to do this right. I must join in – no more running. I must truly be part of this group.

Eventually we agree to head to the capital city of Dreshnaul to explore the libraries there and plan the beginnings of gathering an army to try and defend ourselves against the army of drow and warforged that are already gathered. While we are doing that Waryk will teleport himself to the dragons and see if he can convince them to come over here. The more the better; for the closing of the portals will be much smoother if they come to our dimension. He will return once he’s talked to them and we can decide further from there. There are portals nearby that we can get to in order to close if he can manage to convince the dragons. And if not – we will do our best to get things in order here before we close any more portals – for, according to Sorcha, there will be a time jump each time we close a portal. It is a good plan – and one we all mostly agreed on! So we prepare to do what we planned…

The next day Waryk leaves and we start the journey to Dreshnaul. It is ENORMOUS. Aldritch looks like nothing more than a small broken-down side-cart compared to the enormity that is Dreshnaul. There are multiple guards wandering around when we enter and they actually look like they know what they’re doing. They even hand out maps of the city to travelers. You need a MAP just to get around their city! We head through the initial part of the city and come across an inn called the “Thistle and Owl” that looks promising. It is still early in the day though so together we seek out the temple district in the hopes of getting a feel for the worship of the deities in this city as well as maybe getting something for Swizzle to read and translate for us. It is quiet when we enter the temple area and there are buildings and worshippers of every god and goddess you can think of – even the ones you wouldn’t expect.

I try and travel with them for awhile into the temple area but I quickly realize that this is definitely not my area of expertise. I can do nothing here to assist our quest. My eyes are starting to glaze over with the preternatural calm and quiet in the area. I shake my head and glance over the map once more and my eyes catch the names of some of the shadier districts. There is a red light district and a slum district; marked right out on the map! I know how the world works in places like that – I might be able to find something of more use there! Many times there are things for sale that aren’t available at any price in the clean-nosed law-abiding marketplaces. But I can’t bring the party with me – they would stick out like a sore thumb and probably cause more harm than good in any reconnaissance attempts…all except maybe Kaine. But I don’t know how he would take going with me. It’s better if I go alone, at least initially, and scout things out – see if there is even anything worth finding in those areas. Nodding to myself, I tell the party that I’m going to leave – planning on trying to find at least one or two shady-looking establishments and check them out. I even agree to set up rooms for the night so that they’ll let me go. But they don’t trust me to myself and insist others go with me as well. I grit my teeth but flash a forced smile at them and agree to set up rooms at the Thistle and Owl. I sigh and Kaine and I head that direction. There will be time, I assure myself – we still have quite a lot of time in this city and I will be able to find some way to explore that area. Maybe I’ll even be able to talk Kaine into going with me – it couldn’t hurt to have some extra force to back me up and I definitely don’t want a repeat of the cheetah incident by going off alone and biting off more than I can chew! For now it will keep – for now I will head to the Thistle and Owl and do what I am bid; set up rooms for the night. Tomorrow dawns bright and full of promising leads!

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Lunara Once More
...in which Lunara finally finds herself

Nyx…Nyx…I am Nyx… All I can see is the loss of everything I’ve been striving for. My heart is numb and each thought that runs through my head is more chaotic and violent than the last…And for once, I’m not afraid of it. I relish it – want to hold it in my soul and feel its darkness bleed into me. Let the blackness overtake me – I’m through fighting with its relentless embrace. I listen with newfound black purpose as Gareth and Waryk try and update us on the last three years of our absence. The planes are collapsing in on each other as they are squished together. Let them – I don’t care anymore. Let the worlds come tumbling down. I am eager for their velvet destruction. The inevitable death and pain. Let the world writhe in pain as I have; as I still do every day. I am not Lunara…I am Nyx. And the first chance I get I will burn my mask and pendant both – for they are a part of my past I want forgotten!

Eventually the two dragon-elves finish their endless talking and we walk back to camp, where Gareth and Waryk have gathered a veritable host of followers. I watch as Kaine and Alog are reunited, than Rabble and his bear. Even Swizzle meets her brother and sister there. My arms cross in front of me as a pang of jealousy shoots through my heart, swiftly turning to anger. I have no one to meet me here and I want no one. Life is better without entanglements. Let them have their reunions. It will not last; not at the rate the world is crumbling.

But when I look over to the fire, my heart stops in mid-beat in my chest. The fist of ice encircling my soul cracks as I see what I thought never to see again. Lorne! Lorne alive and well and sharpening a weapon next to the fire! I blink slowly a couple of times in disbelief. It can’t be real. Lorne is dead. I know he’s dead! This is some trick or figment of my imagination – a cruel torture. For a few minutes I can only stand and stare to try and figure out what’s going on. It can’t be this. Not what I see before my eyes. Things don’t work out for the better – not for me. It is a mistake. It has to be a mistake!

Slowly, as if time itself has ground to a sudden halt and all that exists in the world is Lorne and I, I take step by careful step forward. With each step closer, it is apparent that it is, in fact, Lorne. It is his hands that hold the sharpening stone; the fiery orange-red hair I thought never again to see. The kind eyes behind a gruff façade… My throat closes up with a will of its own and it is all I can do to speak the words “I thought you were dead” past the sudden lump in it. He responds with a snarky “I thought you were too – guess that makes us even” and I smirk inwardly – that is such a Lorne response that it finally starts to hit me that he is actually here – alive and breathing and here with me again! I walk away for a minute to gather my thoughts and try to quell the whirl of conflicting emotions I feel. My heart feels—well it’s indescribable. I am beyond happy – beyond joy. The emotions I feel I can’t even put into words yet. But I can’t face him. I feel so ashamed too- I lost hope. Wanted to destroy a city to assuage the anger in my heart at his loss. What was I thinking? I wonder bleakly. How can I even look at him?? I raggedly draw several more breaths, still facing away from him.

It is Lorne’s gentle touch on my shoulder, his quiet understanding as he asks if I’ve had enough time to process that finally breaks the impenetrable wall I have built in his absence. The anger and hurt I felt as I left Aldritch finally fall away. Unable to contain my feelings or my shame, I blurt the foremost thought in my mind “I was going to burn Aldritch! Burn them all for hurting you!” as I turn swiftly around to face him. No more secrets. He has to know. I wait for the recrimination – for him to turn on me in anger or hurt disappointment as so many have done before him. But how swiftly I forget Lorne’s sharp insight into my heart. He doesn’t judge…only laughs a little. My worries flee and when he hugs me I feel the deep love in his heart. He truly cares. Cares for me as I am; meets me exactly where I need him to. I am safe. I start to sob and he pats my back. I don’t care anymore. The dam is broken; the wall crumbles and is washed away with the tears that fall as I stand there in Lorne’s arms. Let them see me cry – let the whole world see! I would do it a thousand times more if it means that Lorne is here with me again; whole and real and here! Once again he is there when I need him the most. It is enough.

I smile through the tears as I take a step back and breathe fully again. He asks me about the pendant and I am grateful I never got the chance to carry out the black thoughts in my head before finding him again. I never had the chance to destroy it. I tell him I know it’s elven and then I remember the other sneaking suspicion I had been having since finding that out. I ask about my name and he hesitates a moment, as if he knew how I’d respond, and I learn that it is indeed elven as well. I should have been angry enough to punch someone but to my surprise, I don’t feel that way. Not with Lorne. I just shake my head in rueful exasperation. Of course it would be elven! But it doesn’t matter. It is Lorne that picked out the name – it is enough. Let it be elven. Let it be anything! I was foolish to cast it off. I AM Lunara. And I am not a child; not anymore. It’s time I stopped acting like one! I need time to think and process and Lorne knows me like the back of his hand. He leaves me to my thoughts for awhile and it is good.

When I am ready I head back to talk to Gareth and Waryk and learn that there are two factions of elves fighting. Of course they are! It always comes down to elves! There is a group of elves trying to find a place to escape instead of remaining on this plane and fighting for it! This is the group of elves we need to somehow get on good terms with, as they hold a large library that could help us as we try and close the portals as fast and losing as little time as possible. But no one is allowed in. Lorne was there for a little while, doing something else, but no one else has been able to get in again!

There are also two armies, a drow army in the south and an army of warforged in the north; both led by different evil gods. That’s right…there are gods! Actual, real gods! I have never worshipped one in my life but through Swizzle’s expertise we learn that the good gods are fighting back and trying to help but are stuck somewhere else because so few mortals believe in them anymore. Gareth casts some crazy magic spell that makes him look more draconic than I’ve ever seen him and we find and speak with the faerie that was in the fire weeks back – Sorcha was her name. We learn that we need to get the dragons to leave their pocket portal; as many as we can as quickly as we can – for the more dragons stay, the more time is lost as we close the portals. And if too much time is lost, we will end up closing a portal and being put back into a world of death; one where all the planes have collapsed in on each other and destroyed everything. This is some serious business. I can’t believe I had my head and heart so lost to anger and despair that I didn’t realize the gravity of what we are facing. And I won’t let the world burn – not with Lorne still here. Not with Swizzle and Kaine and Rabble and Gareth and Waryk and Gattican here… I will fight with every fiber of my being to preserve it. For Lorne; for the rest of my party trying so hard to reach out to me that I kept pushing away. I will do better. I will be better. I know I can, if I try. And the first step is to flip the fear I have felt all these years into courage. True courage – not the bravado I have worn to try and fool others. We will do this! We will save the world and we will become the heroes we were meant to be! I am not lost to darkness and I am not afraid anymore; I take the mask from Aldritch that I have been hiding behind for so long and I watch as it crumbles to ash and dust in the fire. I don’t need it anymore! I have friends and I have family. How can we not succeed?

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3 years

I hurt… and confused. I’ve lost three years of my life for something I don’t understand. And to make matters worse… My body is raging. I feel like someone lit my veins on fire, every inch throb with a dull ache after closing the portal. And We are in some forest with the three we left apparently three years ago. It’s not like we forgot the past three years, but rather it’s like we just were absent for them. Or lived them all at once.
After the pain dulls to a level I can comprehend, I begin to wonder about Gattican. I told him I wouldn’t leave him… but I have… I told Alog I would come back and I haven’t… I am not a liar. And this was taken from me and made me something I’m not. I will be wrestling with this for some time. But right now… My heart and mind are as on fire as my body… you know… metaphorically speaking…

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Nyx
the breaking of Lunara

Kaine apologizes to me on the long walk to the portal and though I give him the cold shoulder, inside it makes me smile. I feel myself once again starting to care; starting to feel like maybe I found actual friends in this unlikely group of adventurers. I spent much of the walk lost in thought and when Swizzle comes to sit a little ways away from me at dinnertime I do not refuse…

Then we get to the portal and recite the incantation…

…then everything changes…

Gareth! Waryk! Once the portal is closed we find ourselves in a forest somehow; with Waryk, Gareth, and Gattican broken and bleeding on the ground a short ways away. Broken and bleeding and WITH us even though they were not anywhere near the inner portal circle as we closed it. I gasp as I slowly recognize their scorched bodies; horrified that we had killed them in closing the portal. More death. Does everything I do result in death for those I’m starting to care about?? But no, they are only seriously hurt; not yet dead. Once they are healed enough to move, though….they look…different, though I can’t put my finger on why.

It is only on our way away from the forest that we come to understand that THREE YEARS have passed for them while we closed that portal…And there is now some sort of war that they will explain to us once we’ve escaped the ELVES THAT HAVE BEEN TORTURING THEM. Oh get this – they also think we should RECRUIT said elves as ALLIES! Fuck that! NO WAY IN HELL will I be getting anywhere NEAR the elves…

All these thoughts and more whirl chaotically through my mind as we teleport out of the forest and to the edge of the grasslands once more… Finally, they coalesce into an icy needle of truth; piercing me to the core. I am not a hero. Nor will I ever be one…And I am through trying.

I am DONE! So done with things I don’t understand fucking with my damn life! Somebody knew – the dragons, the damn fairy, the orcs with their visions…SOMEONE KNEW! And yet we were told NOTHING. Were not even given a choice. The mere moments it took us to deactivate and close the portal caused three years to pass for the rest of the world. THREE DAMN YEARS! Do you know how much changes in that long? EVERYTHING!!! Everything changes. My revenge on Farl- everything I’ve dedicated my life to accomplishing? A moot point! Farl’s reign of terror lasted almost ten years before we closed the portal – longer than almost any other leader in living memory. Now? Most likely already dead. No one survives that long on the streets of Aldritch. The others who aided him? The ones I would have given my eye-teeth to be able to give some payback to? Dead and dead; more than damn fucking likely. Even Lorne’s shop…in that amount of time it has either been swallowed by the street or been rebuilt into something completely different. Why does everything I hope and strive for get torn so violently and viciously from my closing grasp? Not again. NEVER again.

I thought I was walking the razor-line edge of an abyss; trying to save the world. Trying to make friends and temper the anger and pain in my heart. Trying to follow in Blink and Lorne’s footsteps – to be the hero; to save those I cared for… No longer…

I dive lithely into the depths of myself…Gracefully…gratefully ecstatic to embrace the rippling, inky blackness of my deepest underwater treasures; heretofore shunned and locked away. I open myself, body and soul, to be a vessel for my darkest desires. The anger – the pain – the soul-crushing despair. I take it all in – they are my oldest and dearest friends. Why did I ever run from them? No longer do I fear these things; they are my greatest gifts…they have hammered and honed me to be who I am. I embrace them with an icy smile.

I am not Lunara. Lunara is a name I wore for a season. I accept that it was a name I once called myself. No more – I renounce it. For I am not the broken young girl-child that idealistic Lorne wanted to heal and have rise above her roots. I will never care; will never feel as he felt nor be who he wished me to be. I am not Ears. I accept that Ears is a name that I once called myself. No more – I renounce it. For I am not the frightened, cowering girl-child that Farl tortured nor the kind, innocent soul that Blink once took in all those years ago. No; those are only names I once accepted as mine. No more. I renounce them. I reject it all…THIS is my birthright. This is my home. Here within me all along; waiting for me to fall below its watery surface. To drown in its exquisite black waters covered in sheets of ice. To chill my heart; excise the festering, poisonous feelings that hold me back from who I am meant to be…There is no light at the end of the tunnel; no dashing hero to swoop in and save the day. Only me. Only who I am…who I no longer fear to be.

For I am anger. I am pain. I am deepest despair.

I am death…and Death’s gifts will I bring to all I may, in time; in their turn. It has been my gift all along; I have stopped shunning it and trying to be something I am not

I name myself Nyx; gutterspeak for violent death and pain.

I have found my true purpose.

And I am free

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It Hurts
Not so subltly

My vision held somethin I did not expect. My mother being whipped for me. Crying for me… likely dying for me. I can only assume I am meant to follow the same path. I am apparently hewn from the same stone. After our visions left the 6 of us exposed like a bare nerve… silently screaming inside… I make some thoughtless remarks to Lunarra. I chastised her for spiting the loving childhood she does not remember… I drove her from the group… into the wild. I swallowed my grief for fear of losing another person I care for. I followed Lunara, after convincing Alog that I meant to return her to the campsite unharmed. I have been close to the place she found herself… inside. I was hoping to approach and apologize for my outburst in some stumbling cluttered manner, but before I could. I saw something twitch in the tall grass.
Instinctually I sprinted up to meet the predator. Some type of large cat. Viscous teeth and piercing claws found me twice and I realized today was not a good day to die. I called for a retreat and fled. I let the rage take me. I remember little more than the blood pounding in my ears and the elf running alongside the golem… and music.
We exited the tall grass, happening upon Rabble and his magics soothing the ferocious beasts. And was caught off guard by the abrupt onslaught leveled at me by Alog while I tried to explain what had happened. There was a flurry of activity and I looked for Lunara who had disappeared again. I had regained control again by this point, but weary as I was my friend had needs that must be met.
I confronted Waryk about Lunarra’s mothers jewelry, and set out once again to find her. An elderly woman had directed me to the hovel in which she had cried herself asleep. She was there, sleeping peacefully, tear-stained and exposed. Her face uncovered, so unlike the Lunara with which we began our quest. I could not let her sleep there on the ground, alone… I gathered her and her belongings up, and trekked back to the hut she was to share with Swizzle.
Imagine my surprise when I met Gatacan at the door keeping watch. He resisted me when I asked to enter. He is so simple, I almost understand why Rabble tells him what to do rather than asking. It certainly would be easier for him, I’m sure. I explained that we were all friends and I only wished to place our mutual friend in a bed to sleep. I had no intentions of disturbing Swizzle. He seemed to like the expression of friendship.
I laid Lunarra down in her bed, placed her mask upon her face and her necklace within arms reach on her satchel. I then left to find my own quarters and get some sleep. Tired enough to pray for dreamless sleep… but heathenous enough to know my prayers would not be heard…
Upon waking the next day we prepared to leave, I was tasked with explaining to Alog why she could not attend us on our mission. I eel as though I succeeded to some marginal degree. She seemed pleased with her duties and gave me a necklace that her tribe uses to mark her seasons.
The only other thing of note to happen before we left today was again regarding Lunara. She approached me and wished to discuss her… admiration… and gratitude. She may not have said the words, but love lay in the heart of them. Last nights visions still stung and I recalled the increasingly short list of people who have loved me. I tried to explain to her I require no admiration or gratitude… I did what was right… I did what she needed… I had no choice in the matter. Let her look up to Waryk or Gareth. They have noble qualities… they can teach her things. They know what to do with admiration. I know I hurt her. It is unfortunate. But what good is it to let her think I am some kind of chivalrous knight? Still I can’t help but shake the feeling that I hurt her more… … …perhaps it is for the best.
We are setting out for the first portal… I have made cold friends of my clan… I have managed to drive away these people I must depend on… those who must depend on me. Must I have their love and friendship to have their loyalty? Am I bound to chase off everyone who tries to give me the one thing I seek? Perhaps this journey will find me more than a portal.

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Progress

We are definitely making progress. After our encounter with these strange creatures called Cheetahs I am a little bit nervous about what may come with the plagued cannibalistic gnomes. On a more positive note, I think that Lunara is starting to open up! She actually shook my hand! I hope that she can open up enough to trust us. I want to be her friend and for all of us to be unified. If we want to survive, this I believe is the only way that we can fulfill what we are destined to do. Some things are still a mystery, some of us are discovering our past, some are gaining new knowledge, and others are experiencing new powers. Who knows what may happen next. It is all rather exciting.

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Strange things

Oblivious blackness envelopes me for what feels an eternity; a blessed relief after the previous night’s violent emotional upheavals. I finally open my eyes to find myself staring at the wall of one of the village tents. I can hear Swizzle talking and moving behind me but I ignore it and close my eyes again with a wince, pretending to sleep. Part of me wants to stay here forever; forget yesterday ever happened. Forget the visions; forget the loss of Lorne’s pendant; forget that something in me snapped late last night in the darkness. I feel different but I don’t know how yet; it scares me. I don’t even remember how I got back to the tent – the last thing I remember I was in a secluded area of the village, outside. Have I been wrong all these years? I wonder bleakly.

Swizzle is still trying to talk to me. With a deep inward sigh, I finally answer her and start getting out of bed. I don’t understand how she can be so damnably chipper all the time! She chatters worse than any of the kids I knew in Aldritch. Suddenly images of the elves in the past part of my vision flash before my eyes. My…family?? Ngh! Not THIS again! I can’t have a family…even the word sounds…wrong somehow I just want to forget the visions ever happened… But the laughing elven children spinning in a circle lingers, the laughter echoing in my mind. The little ones free and uninhibited by anger or fear or starvation… Like Swizzle I think. Maybe I haven’t been trying hard enough. Swizzle has never been anything but nice to me. My gut clenches; all of my instincts screaming at me to back away from the situation…but I extend my hand slowly and tremulously manage to utter “Friends?” even so. My emotions balance on a knife point as I wait to see how she reacts.

When she grabs my hand to shake it, grinning from ear to ear, I heave a sigh of relief and release the breath I didn’t even realize I’d been holding. Swizzle wants to be my friend! Even after everything that has happened so far; all the times I’ve pushed and shoved her and everyone else away. Even after almost leading her into a pack of cheetahs yesterday! I feel warmth spreading through me as I smile inwardly but I can’t let it show! I look around the room, trying to come up with a scathing remark or something to throw things off again when my eye falls on my pack; my crescent moon pendant laid out on top! I gasp and run to it! It IS! It’s my pendant! How did it get here? Someone must have given it back… Waryk??? or maybe… I ask Swizzle if she put the pendant there but she says no. I feel better just holding it. I quickly slip it on… Thinking hard for a moment, I finally decide to hide it away under my clothes. I don’t want anyone to think that I hold with elves at all but I don’t want to give the pendant up again either. I just won’t wear it where anyone can see.

Swizzle and I go to leave the tent, only to find Gattican in the way. Swizzle, he, and I talk a bit and, somehow, we shake hands and become friends too. TWO friends in one day! That’s more than I’ve ever made at one time before! Part of me is terrified but another part is strangely thrilled. More emotions that are too hard to sort through at the moment. My mind racing, I wander off on my own through the village and decide to go search out Waryk. Waryk who, when all is said and done, has also been fairly nice I suppose. Not that I think just being nice gets you anywhere but I figure if anyone knows how to figure all of this emotional crap out – it’ll be him. And I’m pretty sure he’s the one who gave me my pendant back; without me even having to feel all humiliated asking him for it. He is the last one who had it after all…

When I finally find him and pull him aside to talk, though, he REFUSES to help! And he’s not even the one who gave my pendant back!! I can’t figure out who else it would be! Waryk tells me to go find Kaine or Gareth, as they’ll be better able to help me figure things out. It feels stupid but I do want to get back to my normal self and through all these awful emotions. And Waryk SAW what Farl did. I hope that no one else knows…I wondered if he’d been the one to scry me but hadn’t really dared to ask before this. So humiliating! Damn. I start to feel angry again but I leave to hunt out Kaine and hope that he’ll be able to put things into perspective so I can clear my head. He DID save me from the cheetahs yesterday, at great risk to himself. Even after I stormed out on everyone… Maybe we can be friends too, like Swizzle, Gattican, and I. I do admire the way he handles himself. And the way he treats others when he thinks no one is looking reminds me of Blink..

But the conversation with Kaine goes even worse than the one with Waryk, if that’s possible. I open my fucking soul: as raw and open as I have EVER been with someone and he practically spits it back at me. I told him I ADMIRED him – I don’t think I’ve ever told ANYONE else that… I’m still so naïve….a bloody idiot if I thought things would be different; that letting someone in would help… Fuck if I’m going to try and let anyone in again! I remember now why I shut myself out from everyone else so many years before. The agony of rejection so isn’t worth the gain! I thought he was some sort of caring, gentle soul deep down – like maybe we could be friends or something. Fuck that! I didn’t even get a chance to ask. Fuck if I ever try to talk to Kaine about anything important again – him or anyone else, for that matter. The vision threw me off. I forgot my purpose; forgot why I LIKED being on my own. My plans for Farl and for Aldritch… Nobody close means no one can truly hurt you; no one can get in and know enough to mess up your plans… My hand goes to my mask, laying stuffed in a pocket still. I come close to putting it back on; being safe again. But Waryk’s exclamation of being proud of me when he saw me without it earlier today echoes through my mind. He did brush me off but I can’t deny a part of me felt good when he told me he was proud…I can’t decide whether to put it back on or leave it alone. I waver a moment more before finally withdrawing my hand from my pocket, leaving the mask inside. For now, I decide to keep it off…for now…

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A Cursed Gift

Rabble Wadderbabble

Well, we have all received our visions. I have a talent now that is also a bit of a curse. I can sense where we need to head in order to reach the next portal. However, it seems that when we stray off course I learn this through a violent physical reaction. My body seizes up, my stomach drops, and I am nearly incapable of doing anything.

So we must move forward. We must not stop. Abandoning this quest is, at least for me, not an option. Am I moving toward the salvation of the world guided by destiny or am I merely a prisoner of this talent marching toward my doom?

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Seeing Water
in which the world comes crashing down

My gut churns violently; stabbing tendrils of razor-sharp flames coil and snake throughout my body. They pierce my throat and flood my arms and legs with unbearable heat as the seeing water effects wear off and all of us come to ourselves again. My hands shake not of their own volition, trying to contain that overwhelming energy. I clench them tightly, my throat constricting. The blood pounds so hard in my head I feel it slam against my skull in time to my quickened heartbeat; feel it roar seething through my veins, flooding them completely. I am SO ANGRY and I don’t even know why. I only know I want to scream at everyone until my throat is hoarse and my voice is gone. I want to punch a wall or tree until my fingers bleed and I stop fucking feeling so damn much! A family. I fucking can’t have had a damn stupid, awful family! My course is set and my purpose already honed. It doesn’t matter that once upon a time long ago – like some ridiculous and dangerously naïve fairy-tale – I had a fucking gods-forsaken bloody actual family. And another stab of betrayal; the fucking pendant I’ve been wearing for months now that I thought was some beautiful piece of jewelry that Lorne made or bought in his past is a damn bloody ELVEN pendant! ELVEN!!!! I take it and fling it violently away from me as hard as I can, wishing I could fling the vision away from me as easily and thoroughly. It always comes back to this – back to being a damn ELF! I’d give anything- even my vengeance- to have been born a normal human and not as a bloody elf. I fucking hate elves! I don’t want anything to do with them and I NEVER will. The visions were wrong. This whole “chosen ones” thing is a big bloody fucking joke. I will NEVER learn Elven and I will NEVER ally myself with some pointy-eared, psychotic, touchy-feely, weak, too-long-lived fucking freaks. Fuck!

I take a few ragged, painful breaths and think I have myself back under some control when Rabble turns and makes some snide comment. I don’t even have time to process and answer back fully when Kaine starts in on how “lucky” I am that I had a family to tuck me in at night and people to care about me. He’s MAD that I threw the pendant that was so like the woman in my vision – the one that looked like me. And then Waryk fucking joins in the attack. How DARE they tell ME how I should react to my vision – that I should “open my mind” or some other bullshit naïve advice. They don’t fucking know me! They don’t know how many nights I went to sleep in some corner of a ruined building, sobbing silently with pain from Farl’s cruelty; tortured and burned or whipped or sliced open with a knife (and sometimes all of the above) and hoping against hope that I wouldn’t die from my open wounds and bleeding body like so many others had done from the dirty city. How many times in those first few years with Farl that I heard the agonized, dying screams of the youngest of the Streets – ones I had dared to try to help keep from starving. He made me watch as he tortured and killed them in front of me…in my name – because I had been kind. Because I had wanted to be like Blink and help the ones who could not help themselves. Because he wanted me to suffer. They died because of me! Before I learned that kindness only brings worse suffering. Their small suffering faces and agonized screams still haunt my dreams. None of them know how many nights I was running with Blink and still hoped…how many times I wished – like a fucking idiot – that I had parents or family that would come find me and take me home with them. That my life would be a bloody fairy tale and that I had a home and people who cared for me and protected me. Guess what? The people I belonged to were obviously either fucking weak and died or they didn’t care enough to come find me. There is no such thing as a bloody fucking hero and fairy tales never come true. You take care of yourself and what you need or you get left bleeding and broken by someone stronger or more cunning. You find yourself dead, waiting for a dream that is nothing but fanciful wishes built on lies. My Street days burned all my weak naïveté and innocence away.

Gods! They’re STILL going on about it! I don’t have to fucking explain myself to them – they don’t deserve it! I feel red creeping at the edges of my vision and I stand and whirl angrily, looking back long enough to glare at them and see Gareth look sadly in my direction. My eyes widen slightly, startling a little from that…I wasn’t expecting it…not from him. I … I … am not sure how I feel about it. At least it wasn’t pity! I’ve seen that look before and it makes me want to punch the other person. Pity is for condescending assholes who think they’re better than you. But Gareth’s eyes were sad, not pitying. I growl incoherently. I don’t understand ANY of this. Before I start flinging daggers at people, I whirl and march myself out the door and stalk angrily into the surrounding fields, blessedly bare of fucking annoying other people.

I walk along – my vision narrowed inward; blocking everything else out. The small orc-child comes and tries to get me to go back but I manage to convince her to head back without me. Something something cheetahs and gnomes are out there. What the hell is a cheetah? I don’t even care. I can take care of myself! I always have and I always will. It doesn’t even sound that dangerous…She gave me trouble for a minute about going back with her but I swore and did some stupid pinky promise thing and she was happy enough to go skipping back to the village. I don’t even remember what I said exactly; I just told her anything I could think of to get her to just go and leave me the fuck alone. I keep going, turning left and hoping to avoid the cheetahs or whatever, and continue angrily on my way.

Fuck! Cheetahs are fucking VICIOUS! I hadn’t even been looking where I was walking until one of the giant cat-things pounces out of seemingly thin air and lands directly in front of me, startling me out of my angry inner thoughts. Their claws and teeth look terribly sharp. I crouch in the grass, hoping to hide well enough for them to leave me alone but I can tell it’s doing no good. I am so close I can see the black lines running from the cat’s inner eye down to its mouth – like it’s crying dark tears. I see my death waiting in those golden yellow eyes and I start to resign myself to it. Maybe it’s better this way anyway. I am not fit to try and save anyone – let alone the world. I’ll just fuck it up and end up destroying it instead! That’s what’s happened every other time I’ve ever tried to help anyone. They’ll be fine without me; better I bet! The dragons said there were other potential chosen – I bet if I die another will rise and do a much better job of it all I start to close my eyes, waiting for a strike that will never come. As I watch Kaine bull-rushes the cheetahs, putting his own life on the line to save mine. I’d been so oblivious I hadn’t even noticed he was there! He must have followed me from the village! He looks angry! He swings at the cheetahs and I hold my breath, hoping that he can kill them or hurt them enough to scare them off. After a moment though, I realize the cheetahs are too strong. Kaine is hurt – badly! I can see him bleeding from the attacks from here. I pull out my crossbow, wanting to help. I know the village is too far away to get to for reinforcements but I may be able to intercede enough for Kaine to get away. He doesn’t need to die for my stupidity and obliviousness. I WON’T have another person’s death on my conscience; not if I can prevent it. Kaine yells at me to leave but I scream back at him, saying I won’t leave him alone to die! He screams angrily at me to run and he’ll be close behind. Hoping he knows what he’s doing, I turn and run…straight into Swizzle on the warforged. “RUN!!!” I scream at her. She tries playing a couple things on her ukulele. I’m not sure why, but it helps me feel a little better as all of us turn and bolt as fast as we can back to the village. By the end I’m panting and feel like all the breath has been burned from my lungs, but we make it! We make it to Rabble, who calms the animals, and the orc elders, who somehow send the cheetahs back to the grasslands. One of them heals Kaine but I can’t STAND the thought of all the looks on the party’s faces when they see me…know that I almost got myself and Kaine killed…

I go back to the tent we used the seeing water in, thinking I could sneak in while Gareth is sleeping and maybe Waryk is out and find my pendant. I don’t want it per se, but … ok fine. I fucking want it back! This day has sucked and the reminder of Lorne makes me feel better, even if it is a stupid elven pendant. Maybe I’ll just keep it in one of my pouches or pockets or something. I don’t know. But I don’t want anyone else to have it either. I walk in but, of course, fucking Waryk has the pendant and ASKS me if I want it back. OF COURSE I CAN’T TELL HIM I WANT IT. I glare at him and say “Of course not!!” as I turn around and stomp back out of the tent. I can’t TELL him I want it back. The look on his face made me want to punch him. I’m not admitting to him I want it back!! I … I … fuck. I don’t know anymore.

My pendant is gone; I’m never getting it back because I’m NEVER stooping to asking Waryk for it. I chalk it up to another piece of my life lost; it doesn’t matter. It was elven anyway. I don’t want it back! I try to convince myself it doesn’t matter; nothing matters. Only vengeance. Only watching Farl die and Aldritch burn! I just want to get away from everyone. I don’t want to run into the damn cheetahs again, though, so I find a small spot that looks secluded in the village, with no people by it. I stare straight ahead and try to push the emotions I feel down into the dark, silent box I keep stuffed in a hidden, deep corner of myself. I stuff them in and lock the box back up, like I’ve done so many times before. But this time, they won’t stay locked in. I can’t cry. I don’t care. I’m just here to do a job – nothing else matters! I sit heavily and when I do, it’s like the emotions I’ve been holding back my whole life come crashing into me like a careening boulder. I won’t fucking cry though- crying is for the weak and the dead or soon-to-be dead.

But, as much as I try to stave them off; to bury them back in the box I’ve hidden them in all these years, the tears come. And once they start I can’t turn them off. I cry so violently I feel my whole body begin to ache and throb with the pain of it – like someone came along and pummeled every square inch of skin and muscle I have. It hurts! Everything is a haze of pain as my body shakes violently with the intensity of my grief. I can’t catch my breath and I’m on the ground, frantically ripping off my mask and gulping desperately for air; curled into a tightened ball, weeping with everything I have; the sorrow and anguish overwhelming me; drowning me … I weep for Blink and Lorne, for all the children that I’ve watched suffer and die. I weep for Kaine and for Gareth and Waryk; for their brushes with death and the family they have lost. I weep for nearly causing Kaine’s death. I weep for all the times I never let myself do so; for the family I once had but will now never know; will never be accepted by if they even are still out there. In the raw and carving pain of true grief, I know that, in my heart of hearts, I would have chosen the happy life I had seen in my vision. Would have chosen love and light instead of the anger and hurt in my soul. The reminder of what could have been leaves me battered as I wonder how broken I truly am. Wonder at the parts of me that felt I deserved what Farl had done; had deserved the pain and sorrow for my betrayal of Blink; had wanted the pain to stave off and fill the empty cavern inside of myself; the emptiness that I never admitted was there. I know now why I had never truly stood up to him – had always stayed in spite of the torture and the death I saw so often running under him. Why I had never defected to another gang of Streets. Where do I go from here? My sole purpose is shattered; the one thing holding the splintered pieces of myself together and I find myself doubting the path. I weep until my tears run dry; and then I weep some more. I weep until my throat is hoarse and burning, until my body is trembling and shaking uncontrollably. I weep and keen, oblivious of anything else around me. I weep and the pain of it will be the death of me…

Eventually, the world turns dark as I slip into blessed oblivion; my body past the point of exhaustion and unable to even manage the trance-like sleep I usually enjoy. I fall into deep unconsciousness as my body tries to right itself once more.

…and in that moment, when she is truly and deeply asleep, Lunara’s anger and pain melt away and her face smooths softly, showing the child inside; the one the world never gets to see…

From Lunara to her family…

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Entering the Grasslands
in which we meet some friendly orcs

We have made it to the grasslands! Gareth is still passed out and being carried on a litter by Kaine but he doesn’t seem in immediate danger anymore. There is grass waving as far as the eye can see – more grass than I even thought possible! The party ventures further into the grasslands in search of the next portal on our map. We don’t get very far in, though, when a couple of the other party members spot a white flag waving a little ways away from us. It turns out to be an orc child named Alog who leads us to a small orc village named Shalefist, where we are met by a group of orc elders smiling and dressed in odd clothing. They seem friendly enough and none of the rest of the group act too nervous so I, trying to make more of an effort to be part of the group, don’t pull out any weapons either. I just wait patiently to see how events will unfold.

The orcs, which I realize with a start a few moments later, are also from the draconic vision. They are friendly and inform us that they also were given a vision that we would come. They even offer to show us where the portal near here lies exactly! It will make our task easier and I am happy that they are willing to lead the way. They offer us seeing water, which most of the others seem excited for. I am not so sure. But I did make a promise to myself that I would make more of an effort. And Gareth almost died to finish this task we have been given. If this seeing water will help us to be able to find the portals quicker and more accurately, then it is worth a little risk. It just better not show anything else besides portal-related things. The orc elders said it usually didn’t delve into the past. The less everyone else in the party knows about me the better – past or future. The truth would only drive them further away; make them shun me as almost all the others did in Aldritch. It would make it difficult to work together to destroy the portals. If I have my way, they never need know of my past as a Street or my plans to destroy Aldritch and Farl. They definitely never need know the different scenarios in my head for enacting sweet, bloody revenge. So long as I get to be the one to see Farl’s face as the light of life slowly and painfully leaves his eyes by my hand I don’t care the price. Damn him for all he did and damn Aldritch for letting it happen – even if it means damning myself in the process. I’ve lived far longer than most Streets already; what else is there to look forward to beyond what I have already seen?

I glance over and my eyes widen slightly as a strange thrill of relief sucker-punches me in the gut when I see Gareth finally sitting up. I grit my teeth and narrow my gaze angrily. I may have resolved to help more with the portals and eat with everyone sometimes but damn it I will not get attached! I don’t want to care – I won’t do it! Why should any of them care what happens to me beyond making sure we can all close the portals? And if they don’t care why should I?? Why should I care so much what happens to him; to any of them?? I’m only glad he’s here because it means we have a strong ally back in play that will help us complete our task. I won’t be made weak because I care; because I let someone in. I won’t pour my soul into forging friendships and family bonds that will only die in raging flames. I … I …won’t let anyone near enough to hurt me anymore…

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