Wrath of the Righteous

Entry 71 - Lost Entries
Written by Sarena Miller

Entry 71.

I just wanted to see his face one more time. Not that I deserved it. By the Goddess, just seeing his face one more time would have given me every bit of courage I needed to kill Baphomet and come home. But he couldn’t give that to me. I don’t hate him for it. Everything he said told me that he was in pain. In pain because of me, in pain…because he loves me. I’m sure he does now. But I’m equally sure now that it doesn’t matter to him. If love meant the same to him as it does to me, then he would have turned around! But his hate, his hate of anything not of this plane is more important to him! I think part of him would be relieved if I died in the Abyss fighting Baphomet. Then he wouldn’t have to face his feelings with any finality. If I were to die, he could bury them again and rebuild the walls that have been broken.

What would you think if you really knew all of the truth now? You asked me what I would have written on those tunnel walls – what truths would I have written? I told you the easy one. The easiest truth about me is that I still love you. I know it might have been the hardest one for you to hear but it was the easiest one for me to say. What if I told you that I’ve been taking shadowblood since I left? What would you think of me? If we are talking truths now, I suppose I only did it because I stopped believing in myself. I stopped believing in my worth because you told me I was worthless. Now…I guess I still believe I’m worthless. I wish I could lie and say I found a way to believe, but we’re talking truths now. What if I told you that Cyrin and his shadowblood made me feel more alive than I’ve ever felt? What if I told you that I crave being touched? What if I told you that the protection you gave me for Nocticula’s realm doesn’t seem to work if I’m willing? What if I told you that despite all this, I’m still waiting for you? What if I told you…ten years of my life are not my own? What if I told you that my father is Korrimzidah? I told everyone else, did they tell you? I would have told you that day, that day I told you I’m an angel but I barely got those words out. I think that you would still hate me most for the angel that I am, and not for the decisions that I’ve made. If you told the truth. If you told the truth, how long would you say you’ve known? Was it the moment you opened your repaired eyes? How long did you lie to me about not knowing? Did you marry me knowing that I was an angel? Did the war inside you start that long ago? Did you marry me for love, and refuse to touch me afterwards because of your hate? If you told the truth, what would I have seen in your face if you turned around?

Ten years of my life are not my own. My infinite life. Nocticula certainly doesn’t value the life of her moral servant if she only asked for ten years of my life for his. Would she have let him stay dead if I hadn’t made the deal? I don’t think she cares enough about him to have saved him. It must have been a significant signal to Baphomet for her to use that power of restoration in his realm. Perhaps she really believes that we have a chance to kill him, otherwise that move might have been risky.

Why did I do that for Cyrin? She tried to play on my pride, force me to do what she wanted because of my “word.” I couldn’t care less about what I promised. I only said those things to Cyrin because I MEANT it. It wasn’t an oath, it was a truth. If I had been there, I wouldn’t have ever let him die. I’m probably wrong, but I believe that there’s good in him. I think he genuinely cares about me. He’s pulled me away from death at least twice – though he might have just been trying to carry out his contract. He did say though that when it came time to take me off the shadowblood, that he would guide me through it. And that wasn’t in the contract, and is genuinely kind. Maybe there’s an angle I don’t see, but I don’t think he bad – not in his core. In any case, no one ever said I couldn’t care about bad people. If it makes me stupid, then so be it. I suppose I am stupid – caring about him lost me ten years… but I’ll figure out a way to survive it. I can’t imagine that I’d be any good to her. I’m not like Cyrin.

Entry 68 - Shadowblood
As written by Sarena Miller

Entry 68.

I’ve long since stopped writing these things regularly. I guess I fail to see the importance anymore. In the beginning it was about documenting what I did to earn my place among the worshippers of Sarenrae. Then it was to write about the Crusade so that someone might find it and read it and know what happened if we all failed. Then it was all heartbreak, my only outlet for useless feelings that were getting in the way of – I suppose my true purpose.

Who could really know what that purpose was? In the desert the angel spoke fairly plainly. He said that I was “unmade” so I could be “reborn” here. Here in Mendev. Of course, Sarenrae could do little else. She couldn’t give me direction – that would be meddling. I could only be placed here, and She would hope that I did the right thing. I’m not angry. How could I be? It’s the ultimate trust to place me here. Or perhaps I was just a seed in the wind. How many other angels were unmade? Maybe I was the only one that was found. Found before I died as an infant in the Worldwound. She would know though, that I’d be found. Wouldn’t She?

There would have had to been easier ways. Wipe my mind, send me down here full grown thinking I’m an Aasimar. For my WHOLE LIFE, thinking I’m I thought that I was something I’m not. I thought that I belonged here. I thought that my feelings of not belonging were all in my mind, I thought it was THEIR fault for not accepting ME. Maybe they could tell I didn’t belong.

It’s ironic because because apparently even Avashniel, the leader of the Riftwardens, Guardians against All those not native to this plane, could tell an Angel from an Aasimar. It’s such a supreme joke of the cosmos that made me fall in love with the exact person who’d never love me.

Goddess, it hurts. Your joking HURTS. He threw things at me. He looked at me like…filth. Lower than filth. He said I was the same as a demon. His words hurt, but the look in his eyes…the anger – that hurt more. He had always been so careful to hide his feelings. He was so careful to make sure I never knew if he cared for me. But there his feeling were were, flooding out towards me, finally, but not in the love I wanted, but hate. His hate crushed me. It felt like drowning…all I could do was gasp for air, and cower. He shattered me.

So much of my hope was in his eyes. Hope that one day, all those signs, all those little slip ups that could be interpreted in so many ways…hope that one day they’d all go my way. Hope that that one magic moment, in the waters of the dragon cave, wasn’t going to be the only moment of its like that my life would have.

But when I saw his eyes after I told him the truth, I knew he’d never… I thought I could handle writing it, but I can’t. I wanted to write it so the pain would go away. I could lock away the pages and it would be gone. But it’s not gone. I saw him cry too. I know he never would have wanted me to see it, but I think he broke too. His anger was too much for his walls to handle and he broke and ran away. Ran away from me. Why did he cry?

I wanted to bury the pain. This isn’t helping. His hate is a seething, molten rock in my chest. It burns and wears at my resolve. But there are people here in Baphomet’s realm that don’t deserve to be forgotten, and even though I’m in pain, I won’t forget theirs.

I’ll admit that I am weak. I am afraid. Not for myself, but for them. My pain is making me weak and I fear that I won’t be the one to suffer the consequences, but one of them will.

I think you have be be sorry for what you did in order to be forgiven. I’d be lying if I said I was sorry. I didn’t know if what I was doing was right until Cyrin dipped me under the dripping corpse of the demon. I said the names because that’s why I was letting him… that’s why I chose to drink shadowblood, but from the first time I tasted it on his lips I knew I wanted it.

It was in the brothel, in Nocticula’s realm when I first tasted it. Everyone around me was moaning, feeling the intense pleasure radiating from the succubus. I might have been moaning too. Cyrin was next to me, looking at me with purpose. He didn’t know that my disguise hid my armor. I didn’t see frustration in his eyes when his wandering hands figured out that my skin wasn’t readily available for him – I saw eagerness. He was enticed by the challenge.

He didn’t force the issue the first time though. He kissed me, hard. It was then that I tasted it. He must have tipped a little vial of the demon blood between his lips moments before he kissed me. The blood didn’t taste normal. Instead of the coppery fruity flavor that my own blood had, when I had the displeasure of being so badly injured to taste it in my mouth, it had a spice to it. There was an acidic burn as well, but instead of making me pull away, it made the heat of the kiss hotter than it should have been. Not that I had much experience with kissing, but as soon as Cyrin’s lips touched mine and I felt the heat and the burn of blood, I wanted it. I wanted him and I wanted the blood. It didn’t occur to me until now, that maybe he did it on purpose. Does it matter?

I could have let the experience wallow in Nocticula’s realm. I loved Avashniel. I love him still. Only the thought of having to tell him what I’ve done has me feeling shame enough to even consider stopping. But then I remember that he threw me out of his lab. He said I was no better than I demon. He looked at me like I was a creature, detestable and foreign. I will carry that look with me until the day I am finally released from this existence. The looks of hatred on demons’ faces right before I kill them do not even begin to reach the heights of hatred I felt from him that day. Why should I fear his judgement? My heart still belongs to him though and I am certain that I’ll never get it back. But perhaps I am learning from Cyrin that my body does not have to follow the whimsy of my heart.

Cyrin dipped his finger in the slow dripping of the corpse when he sensed my reluctance. He walked to me with a smooth, powerful stride. He overwhelmed me with his presence. I could barely breathe as he touched the blood-soaked finger to my cheek and dragged it softly toward my bottom lip. It burned my angelic skin just very slightly, just enough to add heat to the gesture. He pushed his finger gently into my mouth – the sexual nature of the gesture wasn’t lost on the deeper areas of my body. But it was then, just then that I tasted my first real drop of shadow blood. So I let Cyrin dip me under that corpse. I felt the hot blood burn my lips. I said the names.

After the first drop though, I knew I wouldn’t stop. My existence has been so cold for so long. The dripping seemed slow, but soon it was slowly drawing lines down my face. It was running down my neck in slow trickles. I was on my knees, and he was watching from a few steps away. He looked at me like I was irresistable. I had been wanting to see that look in someone’s eyes for such a long time. He looked at me like I was a dream fulfilled.

He closed the small gap between us, got to his knees and kissed me again, hard. It wasn’t long before his face and neck were covered in blood too. I remembered things I had read in Melisande’s book. About where to touch a man, how to kiss him…I kissed the base of Cyrin’s neck and grazed my tongue gently along his skin until I got to his ear. I heard his breathing quicken and I was silently pleased with myself.

He kissed me for a long time, kissed me until we both ran out of breath. The drops of blood ran between our kisses and bled heat into the fire that was already burning between us. His hands ran along my body, finding me again in the armor that had thwarted him the first time. His nimble fingers ran between the straps holding the chestpiece close to my body and loosened them more quickly than I had ever done. Despite wearing leather himself, he seemed familiar with this type of armor too. Perhaps he was just familiar with taking it off women. I barely noticed that he had done it, until I felt his wandering hands frustrated yet again, by tunic between them and my soft skin.

It was the closest any man had ever come to touching me. He laid me back, and kept kissing me, kept feeding me blood.

He stood up and looked at me again. I wish I knew what he was thinking. It seemed so obvious then that all he wanted was sex. He drank me in, seemingly memorising the scene. I did the same to him. I took in every shadow on his face, and every crease in his black leather. What he thought about seeing me like this was obvious from the bulge that was fighting the strength of his pants. Again I was proud of the effect I had on him.

I had never felt so free than in those moments. I drank the blood and laughed. I sucked it off my finger as he watched. He returned to me, and kissed me fully and without reservation. He pressed me to my back, and ran his hands along my belly and torso. I did the same to him and even let a few fingertips stray just under his waistband. He breathed heavily, and pressed himself on top of me, and muttered a few words between breaths, “Are you sure?”

The question broke my blood-induced heat. My mind was introduced back into this moment that until now had only been controlled by overwhelming feeling. I wanted this, I did. I wanted to be loved, ravished. I wanted someone to want me. But there was also another part of me who saw Avashniel weeping in a stone basement. The part of me who still held on to hope that Avashniel cared for me. But that part of me was stupid and immature and was quieted by the heat coursing through my veins.

I don’t know why I said it. Perhaps it was Sarenrae’s guiding hand. Perhaps it was the blessing still lingering from the marriage. I asked him, “Promise me, when this is all over, when we’ve returned to Dresen, you’ll quit drinking the shadow blood with me.” His eyes were thirsty and eager, his hands were working on the straps to my leg armor. “I promise,” he said.

The words sounded truthful. I wanted to believe him. Perhaps I had been lied to too many times by Avashniel and Melisande. But I remembered him saying many times that he’d never quit the shadow blood, that it made him who he was. He was lying to me, and I knew it.

I told him “No.” He still kissed me. He won the battle against the straps of one side of my leg armor, and was caressing the soft, strong shape of my thigh over the barrier of the linen pants underneath. I wish I could say I fought against his attention after I said no – I didn’t. I felt him press the bulge that fought his pants against me, and I know I moaned. I am sure I had forgotten that I told him no. But he hadn’t, and asked me again, “Do you want this?”

Again, my mind returned to the vision of Avashniel in tears. My answer might have been different if it had returned to the moment he was calling me a demon and throwing alchemical bottles at me, but that’s not what came to me in the moment. My heart was broken. My body was in heat. My heart won. I said, “No” again and Cyrin growled but didn’t stop. He pushed my arms to the ground and kissed my neck and lips, he leaned his body heavily on me and rubbed that bulge I wanted so badly between my legs. It seemed like he wasn’t going to stop, and if he hadn’t I’m not sure I would have objected.

But he did stop. After he was sure my body was worked to a point of no return, he growled again. I’m not sure if it was in anger at me or in response to fighting his own needs. Maybe both. But before he went any further, he wrapped his magical cloak around us both and teleported us back to my companions. So there I arrived, mostly unarmored, covered in blood, and fully regretting my decision to say no.

Entry 67 - The Dream
Sarena's Thoughts, Never Fit for Paper

Entry 67.

The dream always starts the same. It begins at the end. We were nowhere. The world was dark around us, but we didn’t notice. Cyrin was at my back, I facing away from him. His lips gently teased my neck, sending shutters of pleasure up my body. But that was the only thing about the encounter that was gentle. His hands roamed over my naked body, never settling to stimulate one part of me for long. He was an expert at the craft of pleasure-making, and in the dream, I was a partner to his pleasure, and just as skilled. He entered me, and I felt a release of a longing that had long gone unanswered. With each long thrust I saw a flash of what had come prior to this encounter. It was him and I, each manic in our bloodlust. We stood back to back in a field of demons. The sky was raining blood, and dark as pitch. The ground was already littered with corpses. We were standing on them because the ground could no longer be seen under the depth of our lust. A return to our passion, he satisfying me in ways that I didn’t know I wanted. Ways that were known perhaps, but not remembered. Back to the battefield, and both of us cut through demons like they had been created only to be destroyed there, by us. We danced along the battlefield, being covered in blood and gore. Our lovemaking was there, then, straight in the middle of the field of bodies. We stood, full of pleasure in the rain of blood. The violence ran hot in my veins. I tasted the blood in my mouth. I heard a voice in my head. I felt a touch on my shoulder and my eyes opened. I saw Cyrin in front of me. I had fallen asleep in the common area of the abyssal brothel. The dream wasn’t real, but the passion I had felt was. My heart beat much too quickly, parts of me burned too hot. And there he was in front of me. My lips still tasted the blood he drank. He drank it and then kissed me. He kissed me the way I wanted to be kissed, the way I’ve begged Avashniel to kiss me. His hands roamed my armor-clad body and I saw his pleasure, felt his frustration. I was desired. Now, hours later, I still tasted the blood on my lips. I still felt him between my thighs. Truth and falsehood were mixed. I wanted blood, I wanted sex, I wanted to kill demons.

In the dream, I felt no shame at wanting these things. Now, I do not want to sleep. Not out of fear, but out of knowing that I STILL WANTED THEM.

Entry 66 - The Ritual
A view of events as written by Sarena Miller

Entry 67.
The Abyss was not what I expected it to be. Granted, we only saw a small portion of it, but the bit that we did see was less violent than most parts of Mendev. I told Avashniel before I left that I wasn’t going to return as the same person. I know that I was right, but I’ll probably never tell him why. Though, I’m probably kidding myself if I truly think he’ll never read this. Perhaps I won’t write it at all, and I’ll have my own secrets.

Yes, I think I will. The dreams though. The dreams are haunting in their allure. After they started, I tried not to sleep so I wouldn’t get lost in them. I think in trying to avoid them I thought about them more.

People sometimes say that your dreams show you things that you truly want. When I’m in the dream, it’s certainly true. It is pleasure, joy, satisfaction like I’ve never felt. Confidence, power, desire. By the Goddess, when I list it like that, can I really say I don’t want those things?

But I’m finally home now. Home isn’t the way I left it, it never is, but it’s isn’t frightening like the allure was in the Abyss. It’s easier to write now about now, and it should be written, in the chance that someone else contracts the curse that afflicted Avashniel and Sosiel. I remember when they first contracted it, there was so little written about it. I can’t imagine it was the first time that the witch had tainted men with her touch. Perhaps now, she won’t be able to kill anyone again with it. Well, the key component was a bit difficult to find, but I’m sure if we had more time, maybe something else could have worked. The price was worth it though.

We took the portal back from the Abyss, and I flew straight to the tower. My heart pounded harder than it should have been, and tears were already filling my eyes for the unknown. Avashniel could tell my voice from a fake, could he not? He is a Riftwarden, possibly the greatest expert in demons and their tricks, he would know not to fall for such a simple ruse? I couldn’t be sure, and in my heart I knew that if I asked for help, he’d give it. That perhaps he even desired to save me for once. He’s saved me more times than he knows, but perhaps not in the knight on the white unicorn way. I don’t fit that tale very well. Not anymore. He’s saved my ability to hope though, he’s given me a reason to continue when everything is asking too much. I still don’t know if he cares for me in the same way that I do for him, if he does, I don’t know how he could hide it. But he gives me just enough affection that I do not die of starvation. Goddess, the truth always comes out in the writing. Should I be happy for the crumbs of affection that he spares for me? There are others… I know now, there are others who could desire me. Who DO, desire me. Who would lavish me with passion in ways that…I wouldn’t starve ever again. It’s the dream though. The dreams that have tainted me. I made it through the Abyss without betraying Avashniel… betraying what though? At least I made it through with my love for him in tact. I may now question if it’s too desperate, too one-sided, but it’s still there. It was the source of the tears that clouded my eyes.

I arrived at the tower and ran down the steps to Avashniel’s quarters. I threw open the door, and there was Jeggare, sitting in Avashniel’s chair. Sitting at Avashniel’s desk. The tears grew. If Avashniel was here and fine, Jeggare wouldn’t be sitting there. I felt a little core of anger stir in my heart, as if he would get out of that chair, then everything would be fine and right in the world. He spoke to say, “I’m so sorry, Sarena…”

The combined weight of everything I was feeling and had felt in the week I was in the Abyss hit me all at once. As long as Avashniel was here and safe, anything I had to do, anything they made me do was worth it. As long as I could come back here, and spend quiet moments with him, learning the arcane listening to his voice when he speaks about some topic, something that he’s particularly passionate about. It was hard to tell those moments, but I had gotten good at reading him, when his guard was down, and it was all about his magic. In those moments I could almost see the man inside of him, the person he tries so desperately to hide. The Riftwardens were a secret for so long, it’s wonderful seeing the wizard he becomes when he doesn’t have to hide.

Is any of this worth it though, if he’s not here? If I can’t save him? I shattered when he said “I’m sorry.” I felt the thrum of every wound still on my body, I felt the pressure of the days without sleep, threatening my sanity, I felt the overwhelming guilt of my own dreams. I dropped my shield, as I could no longer bear anything additional that wasn’t physically attached to me. I suppose Jeggare saw the affect that his words had on me. Apparently not all wizards are incapable of reading and understanding the emotions of others. He spoke quickly, “…I’m sorry Sarena, he’s in a bad way… he knew it was a trap, but in the final days, he was so sick… he was going to go anyway, so I…”

As quickly as my will to continue had left me, it returned with force. I ran directly to his room, and started to open the door. Jeggare got in the way. “…You see, I had to knock him out, and restrain him…it isn’t pretty Sarena, he’s dying.” I negotiated myself around him, and breathed a sigh of deep relief. Jeggare was right though, it wasn’t pretty. But he was still here. Baphomet didn’t get him, and I could still save him.

His body was a horror though. The whole room was several degrees colder than the study, despite a fire going in his fireplace. The curse was blossoming from him and claiming the room. His body itself was varying shades of blue and gray. Thin, pointed streaks of the curse spread around its original location and moved to other affected areas. His midsection was the most profoundly affected. It was rounded painfully, the skin looking red and stretched in places, the hunger he had been feeling must have forced him to do this to himself. The tunic he had been wearing had either been cut or split against the profound size.
I touched his exposed skin, and the shock of cold I felt had me retract my fingers immediately. And yet, it wasn’t the greatest of horrors that I witnessed in this room. I saw his soul, struggling. It was just twitch here and a flash of blue there. But Jeggare was right, he was dying. I hadn’t ever witnessed anyone die slowly or naturally while having this ability… but I could imagine that the slow unhinging of the soul is what it looked like. And is what I was witnessing.

I walked out of the room and looked Jeggare in the eyes. I asked him if he could save him, and I told him that I had the crystals that he needed. I told him that he must be certain that Nocticula couldn’t control anyone through using the crystals. Of course he had to ask why. So I told him the truth. I swore him to secrecy and told him that I had bartered a favor to Nocticula in trade for the crystals. I didn’t have time for lies. I needed him to understand why it was so important that he check to make sure that she’d have no link to him when the crystal was used. I gave him time to look the crystals over and he gave me his assurance that no link would be made. I had to trust him.

He said that he and some of the acolytes had written the ritual with a mixture of arcane and divine language so that I’d be able to administer the cure myself. I didn’t really think about it then, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’d go through all that trouble to do that just so I’d be able to do it. Perhaps the ritual had been so complex that it REQUIRED both arcane and divine magic. It would make sense why they had been having some trouble with it initially. Though my arcane ability was mild at best, I did know how to follow the rules and perform a ritual if it was dictated to me. I doubt that Jeggare could manage to muster a divine spell. It isn’t as simple as learning the gestures. But like I said, I didn’t think about this then. He sold it to me as it being much more romantic if Avashniel woke up to see me instead of him. In the moment I didn’t care who did it as long as it was done. If I did it, I knew I’d make it work. Everything was here in front of me. I would do it.

As I was getting ready to walk into the room to do the ritual Jeggare stopped me. He told me to go take a bath and clean myself up. He said that… well, I can’t remember what quite he said, but it was insulting. He said that Avashniel (actually, he said “that disgusting man”) shouldn’t wake up to see me like this. And then he apologized and said that he doesn’t have to bother lying because he doesn’t have a chance with me. I just stared at him. He talks a lot. And very, very quickly. I hadn’t slept in days, and I was still quite wounded. I didn’t have the capacity to retort in an equal manner. He told me that Avashniel would be fine for another half hour, and to go clean up. The romantic in me was convinced.

I ran down to my room and divinely created some water in the large bowl I had there for such a purpose. I stripped off my armor and clothing, in the process ripping open some wounds that had closed with fibers of my tunic within. Physical pain didn’t matter much any more. My own mind gave me far more pain, far more suffering.

I had exhausted most of the blessings that Sarenrae had granted to me, but there were a few words of praise that could always be offered. Those words whispered and the still bleeding wounds closed. They were not healed, but they wouldn’t bleed unless I ripped them open again. I cleaned myself quickly with water and soap, and ran a brush through my golden hair. I put on a soft white dress with golden embroidery. One of the last dresses my mother had made for me. The golden embroidery was minor, I knew the threads were expensive, as least for farmers. But I loved the simplicity. And well, the sleeves covered my still unhealed wounds. Jeggare was at least right about that, Avashniel wouldn’t want to wake to see me covered in my own blood.

I threw on a pair of soft shoes and ran up the stairs again to the study. It was freeing, being out of the armor. In my truest self, I’m not a warrior. At least I didn’t think so. So often I find myself in that role though because I am a protector, and a nurturer. If donning the armor is the only way to protect people, then that is what I will do.

I got to the study again, and by Jeggare’s smile I knew I looked much better. In fact, I was very flattered by his reaction. What I didn’t expect, was for Radovan to be there as well. He came up behind me and smacked my… well, it wasn’t just a smack, but sort of a caress and squeeze too. I blushed, and he said something about bouncing coins. I couldn’t help but think that it was the most any man had ever touched me. Not that someone hadn’t tried, well, bless Sarenrae for armor. I wondered if he could read “virgin” on my face by my reaction. Jeggare and Radovan both said things to each other and to me, very very quickly, but I was stunned by the devil-man’s touch and by the fact that there was something very important that I needed to be doing. Again, Jeggare…bless his ability to read me, saw my predicament, and gave me the things I needed for the ritual.

He went with me into Avashniel’s room. The struggle with Avashniel’s soul had become more violent. I saw the edges fray and rip only to be yanked violently back into place by an unknown anchor in his chest. After Jeggare laid down the foundation of the ritual in sands and candles, and other components that I couldn’t name, he left the room. The ritual was long, and I had to force Avashniel to eat this mixture of materials that Jeggare had given me. After the first bite granted me a flash of his glowing eyes and a growl that didn’t know me, followed by a greedy inhalation of the paste I offered, I knew it wasn’t going to be difficult to get him to eat it. Despite the painful-looking distended torso, he still retained the hunger.
I sat by Avashniel’s bed and held the pieces of paper that Jeggare had given me to read from. If Avashniel had never taught me anything about the arcane, then this would have been impossible. The ritual started with a heavy section of arcane words, all of which I only recognized and knew how to pronounce because of his teaching. Barriers of magic rose from the salts and components that Jeggare had so carefully placed around the room.
The next section was the true healing, and seemingly would have been impossible for a wizard to accomplish. I called to my Goddess for her blessing and for her power to cleanse him of the curse that plagued him. I could see the magic of my Goddess work it’s healing across his skin, but as soon as a patch of his skin was cleansed, finger-like projections crawled across his skin to retake the area.

As time passed, and the ritual built upon itself, the thrashing of his soul became more violent. More than once I heard him mutter my name. All I wanted was to stop his pain. My hands and arms shook with the tension of trying to hold all of the separate spells at once. Of course, my arms shouldn’t have hurt, there was no reason for my muscles to be working, but I wasn’t yet skilled enough to separate the action from the effort I thought it should take. If Avashniel were doing this, it would be much more elegant. Perhaps I could even do the divine portion for him, and our strongest magics could entangle in the ritual. But he couldn’t help me, I had to do it for him. And I couldn’t rush, no matter how much I wanted to.

As soon as I had both the arcane and divine portions of the ritual active, then I had to do the delicate work. I had to delicately lay down some of the precious arcane energy to obliterate the curse, and then follow it up with divine power to heal the damage that had been done. Truthfully, I didn’t much know what the pastey concoction was that I had to feed to him every once in awhile, or why it was important, but right now I didn’t need to know. I just had to have patience and the endurance to not rush this. Patience I could muster, endurance was another matter entirely. Perhaps I should have told Jeggare that I had been skipping sleep while in the Abyss.

I’m not sure how long the delicate weaving of magics took. It was all made more complicated by the fact that I could see his soul struggling to leave his body. Since he hadn’t actually died, it wasn’t necessary for me to pin it back in place. In fact, something in the center of his chest was doing quite a fabulous job of that all on its own. His soul looked older, and more complex than any of the other souls I had seen. Truely it was incomparably beautiful. There certainly were portions that looked worn and tired, but the area being pinned down in his chest looked fresh and renewed. As soon as the healing process was started his soul started to struggle less and less, until I could finally see it no longer.

I’m certain I’ll never forget seeing Avashniel in this state. The thought of seeing him soul tortured and frail, so cold… it’ll be difficult to see him as the stalwart pillar that he’d always been to me. It didn’t lessen him in my eyes. I finally got to see another side of him. A side of him that called out to me and whispered my name. A side of him that perhaps needed me.
When the ritual was over and the magic disappeared from the room, I looked him over again. His the painful marks of torturous curse had gone from his skin. His belly had flattened from its stretched and bloated size. He no longer called out for me, and his breathing had gone soft and regular. The room was still cold though, the lingering chill that his curse had produced, still not had enough time to dissipate. He shivered, not a violent shiver, but he was still chilled. I touched his hand, and he did not awaken. I was so tired. I had nothing else to give, but I didn’t want to leave his side. I never wanted to leave his side again. I wanted to stay here always and make sure he never had to suffer again.

I’m not sure when I decided to do it, or if was even an active decision, or just a product of my exhaustion. But tentitively, I laid down next to him. I could feel his shivers, so I pressed my body against his and shared my warmth. Slowly the chill left his body and his breathing became more peaceful. I heard a whisper, “Sarena” and I responded reassuringly, telling him I was there. He spoke back softly, a tone I’ve never heard from him before, with “Oh, thank the gods, my love, you’ve returned.”

My love. My heart skipped three beats when I heard it. I whispered back, “Of course I returned, I promised. Thank you for trusting me, and not leaving.” He answered back in that same soft, melodic voice that I had never heard. My heart surged hearing him so free, “Of course, I have no reason to not trust you.” With that, I heard him exhale contentedly, and his peaceful breathing continued. I wasn’t too far behind him. As my presence relaxed him, his did the same to me, and I quickly fell into the first peaceful sleep I’ve had in recent memory.

Entry 65 - Fragments
A record of events, as written by Sarena Miller.

Entry 65:
Sometimes the worst days are the most unexpected days. There more days that I can count where I have woken up and known that the day ahead of me was going to be deadly and full of terrors. Perhaps that’s why Geb’s attack on our city was so wholly crushing. I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t have my heart prepared for the loss it might bring. In the end, it may have been the worst day I’ve seen since the first attack on Kenebras.

I was in Avashniel’s tower, he had helped me create an item that would hide my celestial features while in the Abyss. Truely, it was an easy item to make. It took me barely two hours to enchant the hairpin to the point that it would accept Avashniel’s spell. Though I’ve not often had the chance to create items alongside him, whenever I do it seems that he’s impressed with my ability. In these quiet moments with him I do feel respected. It’s a rare feeling when I’m beside him.

I had started another project, something that I wanted to create for the soldiers here in Dresen. It would end up as a mirror of sorts. Something that would allow them to see their families, and talk to them. There were limitations to what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to make something that was sub-par. Perhaps what I wanted to make wasn’t even possible to construct. But it had to be able to be activated by anyone – I didn’t want the soldiers who fought just as valiantly as the paladins did to not be able to use it just because of their lack of magical ability. And I wanted it to function for a least several minutes in a row, no 25-word messages, I wanted them to be able to have a conversation. And I wanted them to be able to SEE their loved ones, it’s one thing to know that they’re there, but it’s quite another to see what they’re fighting for. Perhaps some of the soldiers here had children they’re missing the lives of. When would these men and women ever get to go home again? It’s hard to tell. We certainly couldn’t afford to lose them. So this is what I set out to do. I knew it would take me hours and days, perhaps even weeks to create – time of which I’d probably never have. But if I didn’t start it then I’d never finish it. It gave me an excuse to spend more time with Avashniel too.

Avashniel was different with me during these times too. While I was standing still and concentrating he would come up to me and check on what I was doing. He would get closer to me than perhaps he needed to. He would touch my hands and my arms, even sometimes brush against my hair. During these times I would fight to keep my concentration on what I was doing. Perhaps he was testing me. Perhaps he showed these little brushes of affection then because there was absolutely nothing I could do to return them without ruining what I was working on. Maybe I’m reading into something because I’m desperate to find affection from him.

It was during one of these peaceful moments that I saw blue flashes coming from the small, high window in the laboratory. I asked him if he’d saw it and if he knew what it was. He remarked that it looked like the ghosts, perhaps training. I put down what I had been working on and told him that I was going to go check it out. I grabbed my armor and my scimitar, I’m not sure when I had started leaving it in Avashniel’s space but it had become usual. I threw my chestpiece on and ran up the steps to the tower’s top. I let my wings carry me towards the blue light.

[The following is scribbled after the last entry.]

I’ve gathered you all together this morning because decisions have to be made. I will tell you all the truth of my feelings and experiences, and then I will leave it up to you to decide if you would like to follow my path. When you all chose me to be the leader of Dresen I cannot say that I had the confidence in myself that you had in me. But right now I am making a choice, I will tell you why I have chosen it, and then you all will choose. My decision will be the choice for all of us or the choice for none of us. I will not abide by splintering among us. Nothing is gained by arguing between ourselves. Accusations about character or one’s past will not be tolerated here – who among us can say they have only made correct and virtuous choices in their lives?

We have several problems facing us this day:

First, the Queen has requested that myself, Melisande, Reginald, and Leon all undergo a quest into the Midnight Isles. First, we would travel through a rift between our worlds in the Fane and the Queen and Avashniel will test the possibility of closing the portal using the information that the Queen has provided us. Regardless if the ritual for closing the portal works, the four of us will venture into the Abyss to try to discover where the mining of the Nihidrion crystal is taking place, and to shut down those operations forever. If we can do so, perhaps there will be no longer demons of previously untold power.

Our second problem is that of the Bloodstones which have lain quietly under our care. It is clear that they lay quietly no longer. Those who attacked us were some of Geb’s many legions, and it is doubtless that they will attack again since they did not obtain what that sought to. I will not allow our city to take the burden of defending those stones. I have come across new information that has convinced me that moving them is not an option that we can pursue. I will be reaching out to the Knights of Ozen in Last Wall, and if I am able to secure their aid, will require the assistance of those of you able to do so, to magically transport those Knights willing to come here. I have been told that if those who are faithful to Arozni as she was and Aroden as he was would come together to defend the stones then those and all of Dresen would be protected. [She looks at the Queen] As you have said you do not have the resources to keep the stones safe, then you must be willing to give us the time to make sure that those resources are put in place.

Our third problem is assisting those of us who were afflicted and taken during Geb’s attack. I will not allow Lann and Sosiel to become victims of this attack. I am told that Lann had not yet passed from this life into the next when he was taken. Sosiel’s fate is less certain, but what is truly certain – we cannot allow the whore Queen of Geb to profane and exploit them for her own gain. I WILL NOT ALLOW IT. We will not leave this plane without finding out what happened to them, and retrieving them if at all possible. Lann and Sosiel have been invaluable members of Dresen and I am certain that many of us would not still be alive and seated at this table without the aid of those two. I am certain that those of us who were buried under Kenebras would never have made it to the surface without the aid of Lann and the Neathholmers. I will not spend my life’s energy shutting down a mining operation while those two suffer in the undead hands of the whore Queen!

Finally, we must find a cure to Avashniel’s affliction. While the amount of knowledge of the arcane that I don’t know eclipses that what I do, I do know that it is impossible that the wound inflicted upon his soul is benign. I cannot believe that using the power in the Codex of Paradox while so inflicted will give us a positive result. It could even be guessed that the whore Queen knew what she was doing when she placed it there, planning for future eventualities of using the Codex’s knowledge. They know we have the Codex and they also know that he is the last Rift Warden. Does it not make sense that incapacitating him may have been a goal? He must be free of the wound before using the Codex.

And so you have my decision. I will find a way to get the Knights of Ozen here, I would find out the status of Lann and Sosiel and save them if possible, and find a cure for Avashniel, then and only then will I step through the rift into the Abyss. I cannot in good conscientious leave this plane with these things undone. I will not allow Dresen to fall by the wayside.
Lord Jeggare I am Sarena, leader of Dresen. We are desperate for aid with the Codex and Bloodstones. Too much to explain this way, please…

Entry 64 - Echos of Minhago
A record of events, as written by Sarena Miller.

Entry 64:

With my mind full of horrors that were undone we arrived back in Dresen to find it had changed again. We found a new retinue had arrived in a carriage that looked expensive and out of place in our rebuilding but still clearly war stricken town. Leon and I approached the carriage, which had parked outside of an inn that I had never seen, and found that we were expected. A man, with an affected accent, and a very fine manner of dress said that his Lady Marikii was a dignitary from another land and had chided us for the lack of attention she was getting from the leadership of the city. I tried to explain that we weren’t in town until just a moment ago but it didn’t seem like a reasonable response to the man. He said his name was Darwin and that we should work through him if we wanted to call upon the Lady.

I was weary. Really, too weary for all of this. The rules of the aristocracy didn’t make sense to me and didn’t have a place in my life. Even the nobles in Nerocyan knew the importance of the Crucade and sacrificed their own resources to support it. I’d never had the chance to meet a Nerocyan noble (save for the Queen herself), but I don’t imagine they’d expect needless pomp. Despite my exhaustion, Drezen needed every helping hand it could get so we went up to see Lady Marikii. The porter called Darwin tried to get us to remove our shoes but I couldn’t see the reason for it so we did not.

The Lady appeared finally, she had apparently rented all the rooms of the second floor of this inn. Perhaps she even had it built for her own purposes, like I said, I hadn’t seen it before. She was a tall elven woman, very beautiful, in a dress that was dripping with gems and other added finery. I couldn’t imagine what a dress like that would cost, nor why someone would wear it at an inn. If I’m honest though, there was a brief but strong bolt of jealousy that overtook me when I saw her. She was exceedingly beautiful, and also elven – I knew Avashniel would want to meet her, and might even want to spend time with her. I also knew that Avashniel wasn’t the kind of person who would kiss me and change his mind because he saw an elven woman. I think it takes Avashniel an exceedingly long time to ponder and change his mind, and even longer to register how he feels. So I wasn’t exactly worried, but I did feel irrationally jealous.

Lady Marikii didn’t tell us much. She said that she was from “the Kingdom of the North” which confused me because as far as I knew there was nothing north of the Worldwound. I’m not a stranger to realizing that I’m wrong though so I resolved to ask Avashniel about it later. Leon, the master of Sarcoras, didn’t seem to know anything about the Kingdom of the North either, which was also surprising. She said that her lands had been defeated so she came down to Dresen in hopes of allying with us and garnering our aid when we able to give it. I was reluctant of course. A noble? The last one in her lands…survived a journey through demon infested territory WITH all of her jewelry and clothing just so she could ally with us? It seemed unlikely. My tired brain wasn’t able to come up with options below the surface of what she said though. I was never good at sussing out when people were lying to me, and what for. She seemed to be telling the truth, I could not sense a lie, but it still seemed far-fetched.

Fortunately, she let us go after introducing herself. I promised her that I would tell the council about her offer, but it seemed that she already knew Gwerm at least. My mind was still full from things that had happened in the Manor, and I was long past tired. Just as magically-healed wounds still might ache in places that they no longer bleed from, so too it seems that exhaustion does not reset itself when you relive hours of time.

I went to Avashniel. He has become much more to me than the object of my affection. He has become a confidante for me and his company is a refuge. There are many things in this world that I do not understand, and will not pretend to. Sometimes Avashniel is able to explain those things to me. Due to the strange and violent time that we live in, many times he cannot explain what I tell him. Or, I suspect, many times he chooses not to. In any case, often times I feel unburdened with the telling and so I seek him out. I wish I could feel completely at ease in his company, but it’s impossible when you know someone is holding back information from you.

I don’t think he means to cause me harm by doing so, but it certainly harms my ability to feel accepted and valued. His behavior makes me feel that he does not trust me. But I can’t force him to let go of his tightened grip on his thoughts; I have asked, borderline begged, him for him to trust me. I won’t anymore. I will be patient, and I will take whatever opportunities he gives me to show him that I’m worthy of his confidence and trust. When I had finally given up trying to figure out his feelings and set about enjoying his companionship – then his kissed me. Perhaps if I can show similar quiet patience, he will allow me to hear more of his thoughts. It will be difficult.

I told him what happened in the manor house in a sentence or two. It was difficult to speak about, I didn’t want to tell him how overmatched we were against Minhago. It hurt too much to say how helpless I felt and how likely it was that I would have died with them. In the moment only a miracle would have saved us from death, and though the miracle happened this time there would be another moment soon where the miracle wouldn’t come. I tried to tell him many times in the past that our time together was limited, but I couldn’t do it this time. It was too real, I was too right. They were words that he didn’t want to hear and refused consider and I didn’t want to speak them anymore.

I tried to distract him from those truths by telling him about the encounter with the Aroden priest and what happened to Calder. He told me that time magic was exceedingly rare and that if when it happened it only changed time by seconds or minutes, not hours like we had experienced. I’m not sure if the distraction worked, even though I think I’m getting better at reading the subtle movements of his face and the intonation of his words, he is on the whole impossible to read with any certainty.

I also told him about the angel who looked like me. Though I never really questioned the origin of my birth there was always a remote questioning. It was uncommon for people my parent’s age to bear children, and truly, their only other true-born children were 20 or more years older than I was. But aasimar births are rare to begin with – would the uncommonness of their age and the rarity of aasimar birth make it impossible that I was their child? I had never thought so. But the similarity between the golden angel Sielle and myself was too much to ignore. I questioned him about it, and what his thoughts were. I thought immediately he would say something about celestials and visual similarities but he didn’t – he got all tense and locked up.

I was suddenly faced with the possibility that my whimsical notion that perhaps I was an angel and not an aasimar… wasn’t whimsical at all. It was clear that the possibility had crossed his mind as well! He absolutely refused to elaborate his thoughts – in truth we almost argued. I’m tired of having things kept from me! But before it became too heated I relented. I didn’t want to argue with him – it wouldn’t do any good. I did make him promise that if he ever confirms the theory in his head that he would tell me. He did make that promise, and I was happy with that. He has kept things from me – even lied to me on occassion, but I do not feel that he would break a promise. I wish he wouldn’t keep things from me though, or lie – in both those cases I am certain he thinks he’s protecting me, but I’m not a child, there’s no need for it.

I left feeling a little uncertain and unwell. I wished he held out his arms to me, or kissed me or said he was glad to see me well. And then we argued. Our fledgling of a romantic relationship could barely even be called that, it made me uneasy to leave on a less than positive note. I couldn’t stay though, there were others that were waiting on news of their loved ones, and I owed it to them to tell them as soon as I was able.

I went to find Halldron after I told Irabeth that Anevia was alive and that we had a plan to make her well. Halldron had told us about the appearance of green shaded ghosts (as opposed to the healthy shade of blue)… it seemed like a long while ago. I had asked the Neathholmers to look into it, and it turned out, they were looking into it on their own, but it would make me feel better if I knew it had been handled.

I walked into the cemetery and toward the crypt to find Halldron. I liked talking to him, he has become a confidante like no one else has. While it’s true that I tell almost everything to Avashniel, there’s still the fear that he’ll reject me from his presence. I guess he just did it too many times in the beginning; I still flinch when I walk in the door. I don’t have to worry about that with Halldron. He has the added benefit of knowing the Goddess’s grace.

I knew something was wrong when I made it through the gate of the cemetery without Halldron coming to meet me. He is usually very attentive to the comings and goings of the cemetary, and he’s never not come to greet me. I called out his name and after a minute or two I began to see his form slowly appear from the ground.

After I spoke to him for only a few seconds I realized that there was something deeply wrong with him. His voice was distant and monotonous – I suppose like I would imagine a normal ghost to be. It was like he was missing his soul… which clearly wasn’t true because he doesn’t have anything else. I was worried that this was what normally happened to ghosts after they’ve spent too much time lingering. Or else perhaps this is what happens when a ghost achieves his purpose on earth, perhaps they slowly fade. I wasn’t okay with either scenario. I drew upon the Goddess’s grace and coated my hands with her light allowing me the ability to touch his spectral form. Usually this power is only used to attack ghosts and their like, but apparently it was just as useful to actually allow just physical contact with a ghost. I guess not many people want to. I rubbed my hands down his arms and could feel a sort of matter there, it wasn’t as dense as a normal person but there was a body. I looked into his eyes and I could tell he wasn’t seeing me, this act wasn’t affecting him as it had before. I was losing him. I said goodbye to him, trying not to alarm him (not that I thought anything would have alarmed him in that state) and I went straight down to the Neathholmers.

There seemed to be a lot less of them around, but I did find Chief Sull. He told me that Lann was out with some of the Neathholmers and that they were working on the problem. I trusted him of course, but I didn’t like not being involved. Not when Halldron was getting sick now too. But forcing my way into helping them wouldn’t make things progress any faster – they were already gone. So really I just had to let it take its course.

Chief Sull told me that Leon had already been by and told them that Calder was dead. I felt struck. I never for a moment thought that Calder had died. Everyone in that room had died, didn’t they? And now they were all alive in the cathedral under Sociel’s care. There was no reason to think that Calder had stayed dead too. Certainly he was no longer with us, the priest of Aroden had taken him from us, but he was alive wherever he was. I felt certain that Calder wasn’t on Golarion anymore. I don’t know why, but I was almost positive that he wasn’t here. I told Chief Sull my view on what happened, and he seemed instantly cheered.

All of the Neathholmers gathered then and walked through Dresen singing songs of mourning for Calder. They didn’t think he was dead either, but gone was enough of a reason for them to be in mourning. I walked with them even though I was still injured, and I was more than exhausted. I thought about Calder for a long time. Calder had always been good to me, he was always so kind, and treated me like an equal. I was never afraid to go to him, or reach out to him if I was afraid. I was going to have to exist without him now, and that was a sad and scary thought. I thought about the time he kissed me on top of the tower, and the time I had kissed him in the temple of Aroden. Neither kiss had drawn us to a place with deeper feeling, but I loved him in a certain way. Had things gone differently, I think that there might have been more to come. A few tears dripped down my cheeks as we walked and sung songs. I wasn’t sad for the loss of him – I didn’t think he was truly gone. I was sad that I was going to have to be strong for myself. I was sad that of the seven of us who fell down the pit in Kenebras, three of us were gone.

After the walk I barely remembered that I had promised Avashniel and Irabeth among others that we would give them an explanation about how we were going to save our friends from what ailed them. Leon and I had also promised to formally introduce Lady Mariiki to the council so she could tell them her purpose in the city. I was in the crypt now though and my body and mind was so tired. I mentally visualized how far I had to walk to get to Gwurm’s manor, and I sighed heavily. I thought about flying, but the thought of using my wings made me think of Gaius and how sick he still was – for an almost inexplicable reason it would have made me feel guilty to use them. I’m sure I could have figured out why, but I was too tired to think, I just needed to move. Though it would have been easier and quicker to fly, it was more exhausting too. So I trudged along to Gwurm’s manor without an end to the day in sight.

The meeting was a blur of explanations. The angels had brought a plan for a ritual that will aid us in saving our friends. The only thing that we needed was the reagent. Sir Durgo told us that only the heart of a woundworm had what we needed to save them. There were shocked looks around but no one really considered not undertaking the task. Sir Durgo also told us that we only had about two weeks until they would dwindle too far to be saved. Though it felt like it was weeks since I had talked to her, Arushalae still had a little more than a week until she would meet her fate too.

It didn’t feel right to rest while our friends were suffering. Every part of me was weary though. As I sat there in Gwurm’s home I became lost in my own thoughts. I wanted very badly to sleep but I couldn’t imagine closing my eyes and reliving that scene with Minhago. Hearing the death screams of my friends, seeing them droop lifeless to the ground… they were still dying now. We needed to save them, we couldn’t waste a minute, we had to go kill the mother of woundworms – and now.

Prayers After the Darkest Night

Prayers after the Darkest Night:

With the dawn of the new day, Sarena dons a crisp white robe with a golden sash. The sleeves are long and flowing, and lined with golden metallic threads, the color of which mimics the radiance of her golden hair. Care was taken to wash and brush her golden locks out to an other-worldly metallic gleam. It lays loose across her shoulders, draping long and free, an uncommon style for her. Even her skin looks like it has a golden shimmer that is often muted in the day to day. From afar she looks radient but anyone who got close could see the grief and exhaustion in her eyes. Her face is stoic and muted, but the ruddiness of the skin under her eyes betray a long period of active mourning.

She walked up the tower stairs, only briefly pausing in front of Avashniel’s room. Her movement was graceful and uncommonly quiet. Devoid of her armor and in her formal robes of worship she casts a much more delicate and fragile figure. Her bare feet feel the chill of the tower’s staircase as she reaches the rooftop. She glances at the Sword of Valor for a brief moment, her emotionless face unchanged, before she climbs the stone edging of the tower’s crenellation. She looks over the edge, her footing on the narrow edge of the stone less than stable, with seeming thoughtfulness. With the moment considered, she jumps fully and forcefully from the top of the tower. She drops several feet before her wings spring out with golden and white light. They beat only for a moment before catching her weight. The flight down to the graveyard is slow, her wings only beating occasionally to keep up a slow glide.

Her flight brought her to Halldron’s grave, where she knelt and lit candles. She pressed her fingers into the recently disturbed earth, feeling the sharp corruption of undeath and the ooze it had created here. In the divets left by her fingers she planted the ends of the candles, a purity against the foulness. She spoke her prayer to Sarenrae aloud without concern for being overheard.

The sun is coming up now, the dawn is breaking, but I have not slept. All the temples to You like to say “after the darkness comes dawn.” Dawn never comes here in Drezen. I kneel upon the spoiled soil of this cemetery and I am afraid that though the light illuminates the land, Dawn never comes. Truely, my heart is in the darkest place it has ever been after tonight. I know I have said those words before, Goddess, but no light ever shines here, the world just gets darker and more inky. It is only by your grace that I am still living. It must be of your grace that I live, because it certainly is not born of your charity.

I do not have to tell you of the bitterness I feel in my heart. I know that you know it, and you know that I would never lie to you. The night’s darkest hours have taken from me one of my dearest friends and your faithful servant. Halldron Iddris was more than a friend to me. He was a fellow worshiper – he was a companion in faith when there were no others. Are, no others. He was born out of your blessed wisdom and goodness, and trust me that he was faithful to those qualities. Out of a cursed life he created the most blessed of afterlives. Of all of us, he most deserved your protection.

Goddess, he was taken from me. His unique goodness sustained me in a way that no one else could. He never lied to me. He never tried to hide truth from me. He believed in me, he had FAITH in me. I never had to wonder if his true purpose was hidden or if he was holding back to save me from truths, like a child. He believed in me. He thought I was worthy, and he made me want to be worthy. But now he is gone, and I need him. The night is dark, and the day that follows is cast in shadows.

Please, blessed Dawnflower, if you will not return him to me, then please let me know that he is finally with You and at peace. Though his absence has left me raw and wounded I would find solace in knowing that he has found a place with you. If ever there was one living who deserved to Herald your light, it is Halldron Iddris. I want to beg, and plead with you to return him to me, I know you can feel my soul ache for him, so please know it takes all of my willpower to not scream your name and demand his return. Instead I beg only to know that he has found a better afterlife than the life he was born to.

Bless this place, holy Sarenrae, where Halldron Iddris had died three times – once as a man, valorous and brave, once as a creature of undeath – still faithful to you, and once again as your blessed servant still devoted to defending this place, even in his afterlife.

Though silent tears had been streaming down her face during all the words she spoke, the tears now pour down her face in an exhausted and grief-ridden torrent. She draws the symbols of Sarenrae in the wet earth of Halldron’s freshly filled grave mindless of the remnants of the black ooze that plagued her the night before.

After the prayer was spoken and symbols drawn, she folded in upon herself and wept for minutes or hours uncounted.

Entry 63 - The Priest of Aroden
A record of events, as written by Sarena Miller.

Entry 63.
What seemed like menacing footsteps moments before had become almost impossibly slow footfalls now. Almost a full minute had passed and she hadn’t yet reached me. I looked toward Leon and his face showed a look a distinct confusion that could only mean he didn’t understand what he was seeing either.

A few moments later, with Minhago no closer to us, the air directly around us started to shimmer. It formed into the bodies of two people – Calder and the Aroden Priest that we had found in the worldwound temple. The priest had disappeared in as a strange and mysterious way as we had originally found him. It didn’t seem that the priest before us had the same loopy personality though. His voice boomed accusing us of fouling up everything that we had worked for and for having no forethought whatsoever. I wasn’t inclined to disagree with him, especially after seeing the shimmering form of Calder next to him. Calder seemed more of a spirit than a human. I knew he couldn’t be alive, the still-crumbling dust of his mortal body was right at my feet.

I took solace in seeing this spirit of Calder though. It was not a dead soul on its way to Pharasma, I knew that for certain. It was some other form of existence. Knowing that Calder was born of a God and was standing before me, I couldn’t rightly call him “dead.” That wasn’t was he was. Perhaps there wasn’t a word for what he was. The priest continues to yell at us. I feel the weight of his accusations, but the pool of guilt after seeing all my friends die while I still lived was fathoms deeper than raindrops of insults he gave us. I saw the form of Calder whisper into the priest’s ear, and the being suddenly stopped his barrage.

If he said anything before the passage of time reversed I don’t remember what it was. Everything was always “10s of minutes” ago with that priest. Time was not the same with him as it was with us, and apparently he afforded us the opportunity to correct our mistake.
There was no visual effect of time loss. One moment I was surrounded by death with Calder’s corpse dust covering my boots, and the next I was sitting again in the lounge of the manor house. I heard the click of the key locking us in the room just as I had the first time we were in the room. My mind suddenly ached as if it were pierced by a spike and my heart drummed as my too-slow consciousness struggled to figure out what had happened and why I was here now. Calder wasn’t with us in this room but otherwise it was just the same as it had been.

I wanted to cry but I was stunned into inaction. The image of Minhago’s black and poisoned blades embedding themselves into Gaius’s chest, the angel Sielle’s body, into Calder’s arm and back… they all replayed in my mind, over and over until I felt like being sick. The visual image sickens the mind and soul, but the sound, the THUMP and crack of bones, the sound of heads falling to the ground as the neck that once held them dissolves… that sickens the body. And everyone who died was a friend – family really. They were my life. I didn’t deserve to be alive when I failed them. I don’t know how long I sat in stunned silence. The priest hadn’t told us that time had rewound, it became apparent when my angelic golden-haired twin appeared at the door. She told us much the same thing that she had the first time we saw her.

Hope blossomed in my eyes as a few uncontrolled tears. I wiped them away, but she noticed. I stood up and walked toward her, and looked her over as I hadn’t dared to do last time. I told her that it was a strange and powerful experience finally meeting one person who looked like me. Through the risks and battles, the near-death experiences, mind control, slaying of a chimera, seeing fear in Avashniel’s eyes over a rival wizard… really my concern with how “other” I looked had moved to the bottom of the list of things that concerned me. Certainly being an assimar had been incredibly useful at times too. But there is still a background of loneliness of being different, a lifetime of feeling that way doesn’t go away in a month. Seeing another face that mirrors your own after living that way was shocking and uplifting, and seeing her alive after you watched her die in agony moments ago was emotional whiplash. I tried to tell her how I felt about seeing a familiar face, but I could tell that she didn’t understand. Of course, she’s never lived that way.

We all decided that knowledge and forethought, the very things that the priest accused us of lacking, was going to have to be the way to get a different result. Clearly Sir Durgo would not be convinced that what he was told was wrong. There wasn’t anything in the world that would convince Sir Durgo that his beliefs were wrong. Instead we had to show him things that he didn’t know already – prove to him with evidence that not that his beliefs were incorrect but that there were additional motes of information that he should see and process. We were going to give him enough evidence so that he would have to conclude what we already knew was true – that he was being manipulated by Zanthir Vang.

I started off the talks with Sir Durgo. I think I was easier to listen to because of my appearance. It was clear to me that the machines were created by Zanthir Vang, but proving it was more difficult. I tried to tell him that while the machines were likely doing what he was told they were doing (sending souls to fight in heaven) they were also doing something terrible here. After a time, Leon cut in and said that Zanthir Vang often used worms in his work and if we opened one of the machines then perhaps there would be evidence. Sir Durgo was reluctant, but allowed Leon and Melisande to use magic to see behind the wall near the control panel. I believe Melisande was even able to extract a worm using magic. Eventually Sir Durgo allowed them to take the cover of the machine off, and saw that the machine was infested with these worms.

He said quietly that it wasn’t the deal he had made, but he still didn’t seem convinced that these worms were evil or doing something horrendous. I mentioned that there was a cave in Claw Mountain that had evidence of what the worms could do. I was sure the corpses of thousands of worms were still there, along with the machine, and some parts of the woman who had burst. I thought about how we had lost weeks of time in there, and almost thought to try to trick him into entering the cave without us. While he looked around we would have weeks to save our friends. It didn’t feel right though. I warned him that we had trouble with time the last time we were there.

It didn’t take long for him to accept our evidence once he saw the cave interior. I had a knot inside me the entire time; it was extremely difficult not to be frustrated and pushy.

Eventually, Sir Durgo relented. He said that he would help us with our friends, and would tell us how they may be restored. He did know how to reverse the machine (so angels do lie!) and did so, but they still did not wake. He told us that we had to slay a large woundworm and take the blood from its heart and then it would need to be refined properly into a cure. We had only a few weeks to accomplish the task before they would all die permanently.
We had perhaps ten days to save Arushalae and two weeks to save our friends. One required breaking a siege of an army of demons, the other required killing one of the most powerful creatures in the world wound.

We sat in Melisande’s carriage going back to Drezen from Claw Mountain. I couldn’t help but feel despair. I knew our friends were not dead, and would get the help they needed now but seeing them die replayed over and over in my mind. Seeing Minhago tear my friends and the angels apart reminded me that despite the power that my Goddess and the Wardstone gave me…there were still great threats in the world. Perhaps even threats that I couldn’t save my friends or myself from.

It seems like I find myself on already walking down the path to face those impossible villians. Would I throw myself in front of Minhago just to save others? I’m certain I would. Is there any life out there that isn’t faced with pain and violence almost daily? It’s hard to imagine. In fact, I couldn’t really imagine it at all. Perhaps that’s why I cling to the love I feel for Avashniel so ferociously – it’s the only thing I have that isn’t fear and pain and terror. It’s a taste of the world away from here, a world I’ve never known. I closed my eyes then and tried to picture the moment he kissed me in the dragon’s cave. It was hard to do, it had been one single moment in a lifetime of terrors. But it was good, and pure and I would not forget it.

Entry 62 - The Angels
A record of events, as written by Sarena Miller.

Entry 62.

Somehow, Melsande is able to fight through her crushed laryx and bruised ego. As she laid there in the rubble pile that the force of Lawgiver’s fist created she found Arushalae. She said that she was in the Redoubt and that I needed to be quick because “Jarunica” comes for her. She told me that she could tell me more when I slept, because this way of communicating was dangerous. I sighed, but it was good to know that she was still alive. Sleeping wouldn’t come easily or quickly though.

My ire with Melisande still was not replaced with pity for her condition. I asked her to find Anevia now, and without complaint she did so. I watched the scrying bowl as the water changed to a vision of Anevia. The water shimmered into a depiction of a sparse, but well-appointed and maintained room. Perhaps in a manor. She was arguing with someone but she didn’t have her weapons out. And then suddenly she was stabbed. The body of Avenia as I knew her then changed into the physique of a man. Some of the features in her face remained familiar, and I remembered the story we had heard of Irabeth and the sacrifices they had made so that Anevia could live life as a woman. I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like Arliss and Kaleda were also there, limp and unmoving, and their faces were covered with porcelain masks. The person in the vision didn’t seem to consider making sure that Anevia was dead, and the picture gradually greyed out until I was just staring at the bottom of the beaten scrying bowl.

I sprung up from Melisande’s side and ran hurriedly to find anyone to help me save our friends.

What I DID not expect to see was Reginald in chains, being escorted to a jail cell. I never did get the entire story from Calder or Reginald but what I heard was that after Lawgiver gave a reprieve on Melisande’s sentence Reginald immediately went to talk to the paladins. He told them that he was stepping down from his post as the Captain (which in fact wasn’t his post at all – it was Arliss’s but the paladin’s didn’t remember him). He said some things about not agreeing with the decisions being made, and that he had to follow his heart and sense of virtue and he needed to leave. What I do not know is what was said that made Calder so fearfully angry that he would have Reginald arrested. Neither one bothered to tell me, and I hope it was a case of both being embarrassed of their actions and not wanting to recount the tale.

Reginald seemed set on leaving us when he was released from the cell. I begged him to say. I told him what I saw in the scrying bowl. I knew there was countless times that I would have died it if weren’t for Reginald.

Things were falling apart. Or actually have fallen apart. Melisande was broken, unrepentant, and likely unwilling to cooperate. Reginald was leaving us. I can’t imagine what was happening with Calder to make him act like this. We were all being stressed to the point of breaking and beyond. Looking back on everything that was happening then, I cannot believe that I was still standing and trying to fix things. I think writing this now, I’m feeling the pain of the loss of my mother more sharply now than I did then. Things just needed to be done and I couldn’t let others suffer because we were taxed beyond functioning properly.

I pulled my rank on the guard in front of Reginald’s cage. I told him that Calder didn’t mean what he did, and I was officially releasing Reginald. Whether it was for love of Reginald or actual acknowledgement of my rank over Calder (which I didn’t have, but really there was no established structure in the higher ranks) the guard accepted my reasoning and released Reginald.

It was difficult to pull everyone together. I don’t want to recount exactly how difficult, because honestly in the time I felt shame over it. It shouldn’t have been so hard to get our group together to save our friends. Melisande seemed to fall instantly into a deep depression. She didn’t care what we did with her, but she also didn’t want to help. She refused to apologize or renounce what she did. Nor did she acknowledge the danger and sacrifice that Leon was making by accepting the challenge of reforming her in the span of a month. In the end, I only got Melisande in the carriage by physically putting her there. None of us trusted her enough to leave her in Dresen.

Honestly, it was a miracle that Reginald didn’t kill her on the spot. He refused to sit in the carriage at all, and instead rode up front. Calder was brooding and silent. Leon looked as frustrated and angry as I felt. But yet, I had to sleep. I had to find out more about Arushalae’s situation and how to get to her.

It was nearly impossible through the bickering. Perhaps the Goddess of dreams helped me. Perhaps it was the fact that I screamed at everyone against all that is characteristically me. Perhaps it was because I was sleeping in a carriage that Avashniel had summoned (Melisande had refused). The carriage was pulled by unicorns with dove wings, and had a simple elegant beauty that I didn’t know Avashniel had appreciated. Perhaps I was just exhausted beyond continued consciousness no matter what the condition. But I did sleep.

My mind awoke in a sparse room. Immediately I felt the urge to vomit. My mind revolted violently against the intrusion. It was as if no time had passed since Descari’s curse. My subconcious couldn’t decide if this was real or fake, if I had been here the whole time, my whole life. I completely forgot that I was sleeping. I don’t know if I was shaking and sick in the carriage or if was just in my mind. Arushalae was there though, I recognized her. She told me that she was in the middle of a siege in The Redoubt. There was a small stronghold there and she was trapped in a tower. She told me that the Bell of Mercy was protecting her and keeping her safe for the time being but that the Demon Lord of Heracies Sefkesh and her minion Jarunika were pursuing her. She told me that she found out where the Nahidrian crystals were being mined and processed. She said that as long as the bell is ringing then the protections of the dream world will keep her safe.

It was hard for my mind to exist in this place. My body fought the connection and it was quickly severed after the conversation was over.

I awoke feeling dizzy and more ill than I felt in a long while. Leon wait for me to blearily open my eyes and then told me that Reginald had left us. He couldn’t work with Melisande, and for Melisande’s part, she wasn’t helping the situation. Reginald had guided the carriage to the temple of Abadar that we had passed on the way to reclaim Dresen. His family had started arriving and felt that the world would be better served there. They didn’t want to wake me when they knew I was communicating with Arushalae.

I was angry at all of them for all of their unwillingness to concede anything. But there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t look at Irabeth’s face again if I knew I hadn’t done everything I could to save Anevia. I hadn’t seen Gaius in the scrying bowl but I could only assume that he was there too. Gaius… kidnapped by demons once, and then whoever this was so soon afterwards. I felt guilty for what happened to him. I was the one who had sent him away from Claw Mountain and then he had gone missing. Goddess, no where is safe. I don’t think there’s a place in the world that is. Not in my world. My somber thoughts aren’t helped by the fact that Melisande keeps muttering, “We’re all dead” over and over.

Suddenly the carriage stopped and interrupted all of our certainly disparate thoughts. We hadn’t been travelling long enough to reach our ultimate destination. We got out of the carriage and were greeted by a faintly angelic being. The being was tainted however – it was inky black in color, it was covered in chains and locks and had one hand outstretched to us. The unicorns that pulled our carriage were bowing to this creature.

It was hard not to be alarmed at this creature. He was beautiful but damaged, and wrong. It felt like a warning. Something to be afraid of deeply, something I never knew I should be afraid of. He introduced himself as Izalmir and stopped us to warn us that where we were going was dangerous. He said that his brothers of the angelic host were in the manor house that we were headed for, and they were framing him in order to proceed with a plan that was unwholesome.

I instantly felt a connection with Izalmir. I suppose though, that if I truly am introspective about myself, I often feel connections with everyone I meet. I liked him though. His mood was sullen, but he was willing to tell us about himself. He told us that he had turned his back on the angelic host and he was now a fallen angel. He repented his actions and tried to rejoin the angels, but was now forced to wear chains until his locks could be undone. If there were a list (and the list would be quite long now) of people I wanted to help, he would be on it now. We asked him to join us to try to get the angels to return our friends. He said he could not fight his brothers and sisters – he seemed to think that it would be impossible to convince them that what they’re doing is wrong.

I told him that he was welcome in Dresen, and that he could earn his redemption fighting alongside us. He seemed to consider the offer and agreed to aid us if we ever needed it. I shook his hand, and at that moment one of his locks fell off of his chains. His face was stoic, but I can imagine that losing even one lock would be a relief. I felt badly for him, I know what loneliness feels like, and it seems impossible that this being isn’t painfully lonely. It seems like I am drawn to the people who are the hardest to touch – Halldron, Izalmir, Arushalae… Avashniel. I want to bring them joy and comfort, but I’m never successful. Tenacity, I hope, will work eventually. I hope.

He gave me the lock and he said that if I lock it again, he will hear it and come to aid us. We thanked him and continued on our journey. As we rode, I took the time to contact Avashniel, because he had a book on angels (as grim as the title was), and could possibly give insight into why they were behaving this way. The spell took long minutes to set up, and I had never cast it before but I had studied it while reading in Avashniel’s quarters. Casting a spell without the help of the Goddess was a strange sensation. The energy felt foreign in my hands and my veins. It was just a small and limited message spell but I was proud of myself for being able to command enough arcane magic to do it. I asked him if we had to kill them or if he knew of another way to bargain with angels. None of us were particularly keen on killing angels. He responded saying that they are very difficult to deal with and are dangerous, and to be careful. It wasn’t exactly any help at all.

We reached a strange forest. It was the lushest forest I had ever seen, though it was sparse and bare compared to forests I’ve seen since. There were few trees but they were large and menacing. The ground seemed dead though, so the fact that these trees grew here was unsettling. As we continued our quarrels grew less and less important as the forest grew more strange. Saplings hovered upside down in the air, we saw a short, stout wall that would pass as a one commonly used for a pasture if it weren’t for the fact that it was made out of red, dripping eyes. Shadows in this place were also wrong. Some objects had shadows that were too long, or hanging from the wrong direction. Mushrooms and rocks hovered a few inches off the ground before plopping back in their places. Warbled echos coming from no where grew softer and then louder.

Despite the odd surroundings nothing evil befell our passage. We found the manor house – it was as grand as I had seen in the vision Arushalae gave me. Calder remarked that it could have easily been plucked right from the Chelaxian countryside, and the look on Melisande’s somber face seemed to agree with him.

We decided that since we were dealing with angels it would probably be best if we just knocked on the door and tried to reason with them. We were greeted at the door by an almost androgynous, impeccably dressed Chlaxian woman. She called herself “Steward Rhodette” and she wore a featureless silver mask. We told her that we were looking for our friends and that we sought to speak with the authority of the house. Her only response was that “if your friends are here then they weren’t good friends at all.” The comment didn’t make much sense at the time.

We were led to a sitting chamber that was well appointed in the Chelaxian style. There was fresh food and water sitting on the table. I was too nervous to eat, and it seemed suspicious that they had food ready for guests who were uninvited. She asked us to wait and quickly shut and locked the door behind her. Every sense of danger in all my fingers and toes and in my chest were all screaming to be let out of here. Calder and Melisande seemed happy to play the Chelaxian nobles that they already were. We had no other recourse really so Calder quickly ran down the rules of Chelaxian society. Well, some of them anyway. It seemed like there were quite a lot and it quickly overwhelmed me. My nerves were frayed from being so close to our friend’s kidnappers but trying to be civil about their rescue. I tried to learn, but I thought it was best to let Calder lead the negotiations.

We were left in the room for quite some time. I could feel my heart pounding in my neck and thrumming in my ears. It was almost impossible to stay seated in that waiting room. Leon looked about as concerned as I did, but Calder seemed calmer than I’d ever seen him. I just wanted our friends back. I felt out of place in this house. Probably as out of place as the house was in the Worldwound. As they spoke about all the rules of curtseying and elegant grace I became keenly aware of all the noise my armor made every time it moved.

After an indeterminable amount of time the door to this room unlocked and opened. I was stunned to silence at the face that looked back at us. The woman who greeted us had hair like finely spun gold, and skin that was pale but shone golden when the light of candles in the room caressed her skin in just the right way. She looked…just like me. I had never seen someone who looked so similar to me. I quickly wondered if all angels looked like her. If maybe I had been misplaced in life, and there was truly a place that I belonged. But I knew that I wasn’t an angel, it was a coincidence as she confirmed when I mentioned our similarity to her. She said “beauty springs in many places.” She introduced herself as Sielle, and she was clearly an angel and not a servant of the house.

She insisted that we leave our weapons at the door of the manor. None of us was very comfortable with that, but neither were we interested in fighting these angels so we complied. She took us down a long corridor that lead ultimately to a basement. It wasn’t a dank place, but it was cooler and darker than the rest of the home.

There was a being at the opposite side of a long room. The room was relatively dimly lit and cages lined the walkway leading to the man. Calder took the lead and introduced us as servants and friends of the heavenly host. The being had stark black and silver hair and was wearing dark robes and a mask. If Izalmir hadn’t told us that we were going to encounter angels, then I wouldn’t have thought that this man was one. But it seems that angels have as varied physiques and coloration as humans. There were several other beings in masks that stood near him on a slightly raised platform. The room was lined in gilded cages. While Calder introduced us I began to realize that the forms in the cages were those of our stolen friends.

I couldn’t help myself. I ran over to Gaius’s cage. Melisande tries to run to Arliss’s but Leon prevents her from doing it. I can’t say I blame him, she had been acting odd and fatalistic the whole way here, there was no telling what she’d do. It was pretty clear that our diplomatic situation here was delicate. When I started to run over to Gaius’s cage our host, who had been named Sir Durgo, moved to stop me but the female angel Sielle told him that it was fine.

Things went so wrong so quickly. Our friends were unconcious and attached to machines. The machines had tubes attached to them that slinked ominiously against the wall and then disappeared behind where Sir Durgo and the other angels stood. There was some sort of control mechanism on that wall too, but little else.

I quickly became aware that these angels didn’t rationalize things the same way that we did. It was also very difficult to be calm and rational when our friends were being imprisoned for no reason. We tried to tell them that these people were GOOD people and were helping our cause – that without them it would be probable that our fight against the demons would fail on Golarion.

Sir Durgo didn’t agree. He said that they were taken because they weren’t good, and they quite possibly could bring Dresen to the ground. He said it with a fanaticism that reminded me of a paladin’s unrelenting support of his code, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. I tried to see it their way because both Izalmir and Avashiel said that they were stubborn creatures. Eventually though my impatience wore out. I spent more effort trying to figure out how to unplug Gaius (and if that would even fix anything) than talking to Sir Durgo. Leon took over most of the talking… and he perhaps said some things that were condescending. They were true and understandable, but really just served to make Sir Durgo angry. I’m sure my toying with the machine didn’t help much either.

Sir Durgo warned us to leave. I will give him that credit. He told us many, many times to leave. The violent tone in his voice was unmistakable. I couldn’t leave though. The violence was flowing through my veins just as much as it was flowing through his. I wouldn’t leave without our friends. Since he now knew how devoted we were to getting them back there was no telling what he would do to them if we left and returned later. I couldn’t let them down, not when they all had saved me and supported me. These were the only friends that I had in the world. Gaius who taught me how to be an Aasimar, who filled me with hope and joy; Anevia who had a wife waiting for her in Dresen, who had sacrificed so much for the Crusade; Kaleda who’s secrets were deeply hidden, but clearly painful; Aaron – possibly the kindest, most genuine person in the world, and Sociel was here too being forced to paint the eerie porcelain masks; Arliss, who never really seemed to have love for me, but was so respected by the Crusaders that we couldn’t function without him. These were all people who would be worth dying for.

He told us that the machine had been given to them. I suppose he felt it was beneath him to remember a mortal’s name, because he couldn’t remember who had given it to him. Or perhaps he was lying. I felt certain that Zanthir Vang was behind this machine having seen evidence of his other arcane mechanisms. He told us that the machine took living humans and somehow extracted their souls and sent them to heaven to fight in the holy war that was being waged in the celestial realm. He said that these people were taken because they were not “good.” In this way he felt that what he was doing was acceptable because evil souls were being used for a good purpose. We couldn’t convince him otherwise. I felt an intense ball of hatred and frustration build inside of me. I am sure Sir Durgo was feeling it towards us. Things were going to erupt in bloodshed in moments – but that wouldn’t help us get our friends back.

It was clear that Sir Durgo, after arguing with us for a great long while, was not going to hand back our friends. He was not going to help us retrieve their souls. The bars on the cages were much too difficult to bend or break – we were going to need time to get them out. But that wouldn’t put their souls back in their bodies. I thought perhaps if I could see the control panel I could reverse it somehow. So I did the only thing I thought I could do – I dropped my weapons.

It seemed like the other angels didn’t actually want to attack us – or were at least much more reluctant. I was hoping that they would allow me to approach the control panel, that they would encourage Sir Durgo to not kill an unarmed aasimar. It was a weak hope, but there weren’t any good options. Sir Durgo continually argued with the others as I approached. I was mere steps away from the platform before he warned me to not get any closer. Slowly, I walked up the steps anyway.

Like I had hoped, the others kept him from attacking me. I reached the panel in the wall. To my complete and utter disappointment I had no idea how the panel worked. It was completely foreign. As I got closer to the panel, Sir Durgo had gone to Anevia’s cage. He threatened to do something to her if I touched it. I was spilling over with frustration that was turning into cool despair. Without knowing how the machine worked I couldn’t do anything. At this point though, there was no more time to leave peacefully – Durgo would not allow it, and I honestly could never have stepped out of that room without them. I wouldn’t allow myself to go.

There was only one option left and I knew it was a bad option the moment I had done it. I pulled Melisande’s dagger out from behind my cloak. Earlier in the day, she had given it to me and begged me to kill her with it. In her (seemingly) great despair I thought it was odd that I was the one about to do the crazy thing. Perhaps it was her dagger’s influence. I plunged it into the control panel of the machine. I immediately regretted it. I pulled my hand away from the hilt like it had immediately gone molten hot. I looked up and saw Sielle, and saw my own desperation and horror reflected in her eyes.

Sir Durgo had pulled out the tube in Anevia’s back and she slumped over. I watched her, and I knew she was dead. I don’t think I could have done anything to save her; this whole situation, unbeknownst to us, was doomed from the start. If it weren’t for the fact that others were still alive and needed to get out, I wouldn’t have minded if Sir Durgo had cut me down in that moment. I wouldn’t have fought it. I had failed, and the only thing I could do was try to prevent everyone from dying.

The others seemed to have a similar idea. Calder summoned a being, a red woman, likely Arozni, who I’ve seen the statue of and who I had seen many times before. She stood fiercely by his side. Leon summons a hound archon. It was clear that we knew that we were going to need all the help we could get.

Sir Durgo pulls off his mask and is consumed in white fire. The other angels similarly unveil their angelic forms. They are glorious and horrible all at once. The woman Sielle, unveils her wings and her sword, and it was once again as if I were staring into a mirrored reflection. I felt as though we couldn’t defeat these beings, and more than that – that we shouldn’t hurt them.

I ran through and past Sir Durgo and all the angels still on the platform. Remarkably, none of them decided to take their chance to attack me while I was unarmed. I didn’t even think about attacking them. My only focus was to get as many of my friends out of here as possible. I ran straight to Gaius’s cage and picked up my weapon, hacking at the lock as viciously as I could. It was awkward trying to hit the lock in just the right place, and the material it was made out of was high quality. My despair deepened, but I didn’t stop what I was doing.

Goddess knows what truly in the next furtive, bloody, moments. I heard a bone-cracking scream, if it could even be called that. There was the scent of lavander, and also the ticking clockwork that I’ve come to know as Lawgiver’s cadence. I took a brief glance around the room and death had already surrounded me. Inexplicably, the demon called Minago was in the center of the room battling (and eviscerating) Sir Durgo. Her presence could only be explained by the candle burning near Melisande, which I recognized as the soul-leech that Iritania, the traitor, had placed around the camp so many short weeks ago. Sir Durgo was not fairing well against her, his white fire wings being sliced off neatly from his body one by one.

I finally knocked the lock off of Gaius’s cage and then shouted for Leon. Leon had been trying to break Sociel from his chains. I saw him run toward an angel at the room’s exit and then suddenly disappear.

I ran in front of Sir Durgo, hoping that I could block a killing blow, but it seemed that his injuries were far too great for him to survive anyway. Off to my right Lawgiver was striking out at a crouching Melisande, he encountered a barrier around her that was blocking his vicious attacks. But behind Melisande was the devil lord that we had all had come to know, who’s name I won’t mention. They start to speak to each other, while Melisande magically binds Lawgiver in chains. All I could hear over the roar of battle was “THIS IS MINE” being shouted by the still-injured devil.

I wasn’t able to keep Minhago busy enough. The power and speed of this demon overwhelmed me quickly. She buried a gruesome blade into my skin over and over, a burning vicious and hot sprung deeply from the wound, but I held my ground hoping that I could keep her busy enough for some of the others to get away. I was completely wrong. While continuing to fight me, Minhago threw blades at Gaius and the golden angel. They buried deeply in their chests and the skin started to burn away into dust. I saw Sielle stumble and scream silently as her chest and throat dissolved, I couldn’t bare to look at Gaius. Everyone was dying around me, and I couldn’t save anyone.

A blade hits Calder in the arm and immediately my despair floods over. I run to him, allowing the chance for Minhago to strike at me at her will. Honestly, I was already so injured that I can’t remember if she sliced me open then, or had let me run away. I picked Calder up, dragging him, pulling as quickly as I could toward the exit. I could hear more of Minhago’s blades bury themselves into more of my friends. Just as I got to the door, Calder’s weight suddenly lessened, and I saw, to my unending horror, that the arms I had been dragging him by had dissolved into dust. He was gone.

I was at the exit of the room. I stared around, and saw the blue souls of everyone I loved raising into oblivion. I couldn’t save them. Even if I did they’d immediately be killed again. A few precious seconds ticked by while I decided if I was going to stay and die with them or if I was going to go so at least everyone could know what happened. I watched Minhago stalk toward me. She was taking her time, her steps menacingly slow. I wasn’t afraid to die, it would be a mercy after what happened here. I couldn’t live with the guilt. Leon suddenly appeared behind me as saw the scene as I saw it. I was relieved, he could escape and tell everyone what happened. I could stay.

Entry 61 - Justice for Melisande
A record of events, as written by Sarena Miller.

Entry 60.

When I awoke the next day all I wanted to do was be near Avashniel. I did not want to deal with Melisande and her inevitable return, I didn’t was to listen to Reginald’s hatred for Mel. I didn’t know what to do about the statues. It pained me deeply that my friends were missing and so far I had no idea even where to start looking. It was like I hadn’t even slept, the continual stream of worry sat on my shoulders like so many boulders. Even though I had to have infinite patience with Avashniel I knew for certain that there was some part of him that cared for me deeply. Blink and I’d miss it, but it is there. So that was where I wanted to be.
I let myself into his office and he was already awake and reading. There were still moments of anxiety when entering his room where I still felt unwelcome. He had treated me so frigidly in the weeks after his sight returned that I still expect him to dismiss me. He hasn’t though. Not in many weeks.

I picked up a book I had been reading the last time I had been here – a book about arcane scripts and its nuances. So many of his books were unapproachable to me because I didn’t know the arcane language well. There were spells that could bring the knowledge to me instantaneously for a time, but it felt wrong to use them. I wanted to learn for real, and not cut any corners. There was a second chair in his office, it was uncomfortable (I’m sure to discourage people from sticking around), but I sat in it and read. I didn’t need him to kiss me or talk to me or have any of his attention at all, being in the same room was enough to regain a small bit of peace.

After some time a voice came to both of our minds. It was Melisande’s and she wanted to meet everyone in the council chamber. I closed the book angrily. It didn’t seem that he was surprised or disturbed by my reaction. He warned me that Melisande had done the things she did with full knowledge of the possible consequences – that there was no excusing the results as accidental. I couldn’t argue with him. It was true. She knew what she was doing and decided to use my parents anyway. I tried hard to think of a way to forgive her or her behavior, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to go to the council chambers and face her.

The council gathering was just as I feared. There was yelling and accusations, mostly between Reginald and Melisande. I found myself more worried that Melisande was going to leave without dealing with the devil or Reginald was going to kill her before she could. In fact, he didn’t want to give her any chance to talk to the devil at all. No one really had a good way of dealing with the devil without her though. I really tried to express that but Reginald’s feverish anger didn’t seem to allow that truth in. Not that I thought she should go unpunished but it wasn’t the time to dole out punishments.

Things become so feverish that Avashniel actually contacted the Queen. And she actually came. It’s pretty embarrassing when your “council” is so inept that they can’t make a decision about a person who willingly brought themselves back to the city, likely knowing that they’re going to be punished. The stress was very high though. I think everyone knew that the problem with the archdevil wasn’t going to go away without Melisande’s intervention. The logical among us knew that we needed her. The illogical didn’t care about that. And when religious fervor and ideals become more important than the safety of the city – that’s when things go wrong. There’s been many times along this journey where I’ve thought that perhaps the first four Crusades may have failed because only paladins were fighting the war. The inflexibility is so dangerous – and so predictable, I’ve sure if demons would think to do it they could have used that zealotry against the paladins. When you become willing to do ANYTHING to achieve your goal – that’s when you become truly dangerous. Maybe that’s what we really need.

All of a sudden, we here this ticking noise. It is unusual, it sounds like machinery. Reginald stands up immediately and runs out of the door of the council chamber. I have very little experience with actual machinery – those most mechanical things I have seen were the magic-infused creations of Zanthir Vang. I ran to follow Reginald. If Zanthir Vang had found some way to infiltrate the keep – and attack us while we were all arguing – well, we’d feel sorrier than we already do.

With Leon, Calder, and Melisande close at my heels we all ran down the steps to the basement and the source of the mechanical ticking. The devil was down there too, so I knew that nothing good was going to come of what was going to happen in the next few moments.

I never would have guessed, given a million chances, of what we would find in the basement. There was rubble all over the floor. It was a wonder we hadn’t felt the rumble of walls breaking. The cell that had once housed the devil had been destroyed. He hadn’t escaped, however, for the source of the ticking was the great archon of Abadar – Lawgiver. Reginald had said that he had seen Lawgiver once before, and of course, I believed him but I never thought that Lawgiver would ever intervene so directly to solve our issues. And solving them he was. He was fighting the devil, and beating him handily. The devil was bloodied and had a broken horn, Lawgiver had him in a chokehold. I knew how horribly powerful the devil was so this act of complete dominance was awe-inspiring and terrible all at once. It’s one thing to believe in the power of the Gods, but it’s quite another to see just what his minion can do.

Lawgiver and the devil retreated into the recesses of the cell for the last moments of their fight. The cell itself completely made all of the devil’s magic unusable so Lawgiver seemingly made quick work of the evil being.

Apparently Lawgiver wasn’t done though. As soon as he exited the cell he came for Melisande. He moved more quickly than a being made of stone ought to. He wrapped the fingers of one stoney hand around the delicate bones of Melisande’s neck.

I stood transfixed next to Calder. Either there was nothing that she could do to fight this being or she chose not to do anything. Lawgiver raised her several feet off the floor and slammed her against the outer wall of the jail cell. She was struggling to breathe and, to her credit, it seemed like she was trying to remain calm but there was a look of pain and panic across her brow.

Lawgiver could have easily killed her in half a moment. It occurs to me now that he must have elected NOT to kill her in that moment. He must have been waiting for us to intervene on her behalf. Who knows what he would have done if Leon hadn’t come to her rescue. I watched Leon very eloquently try to persuade Lawgiver that he should spare her life. He told Lawgiver that Melisande had suffered alongside all of us in the past and deserves a chance to redeem herself.

For my part, I just stood there. There was an endless war raging inside me, but I couldn’t bring myself to defend Melisande. Although I worship another Goddess, I didn’t have it in me to defy the herald of a God. Lawgiver has powers unimaginable to me and to any of us. If he could see into her soul and pass judgement and say that she should die for what is contained there… then who am I to disagree? Perhaps it was anger too though. She should be punished for what she had done to me and my parents. Looking at the life being forced from her face though… I couldn’t – she was still my friend. Goddess, I hated her for what she did, but no matter what warnings anyone gave me, I couldn’t in my heart believe that she had MEANT for that outcome for them. She was wrong, and bringing the devil to this place was deadly and reckless. She showed no remorse for anything she did.

But yet, I couldn’t hate her. My lips wouldn’t move in her defense either. I couldn’t defend someone who was so clearly wrong and so clearly unrepentant. But I didn’t have to let her die alone. I walked quietly to her side and held her hand as she hung almost lifeless from Lawgiver’s unforgiving fist. I whispered to her that I forgave her, and that I was her friend. I didn’t feel the forgiveness in my heart, but if hearing it could relieve any guilt (if she felt any at all) as she passed on to the next realm, then it was words that I could make my lips say.

Leon still fought for Melisande’s life. He made promises on her behalf that I knew he couldn’t keep – not without her cooperation. I just closed my eyes and tried to filter out some of the deadly tension in the room. I tried not to cry for her, tried not to let my hand shake as the long moments passed. I tried to think about what I’d do when she died and I saw the blue specter of her soul floating away from her body. Would I save her? What point would that make? I couldn’t respect Lawgiver’s judgement and then just return her to life.
So I just stood there and waited for the moment when her hand would go limp and lifeless. I would feel my friend die next to me and accept it because she made her own choices and had to pay for them. Her lack of repentance would kill her. And then I heard it, the thick gravelly voice of Lawgiver say, “One month. In one month I will return and make judgement.” He held Leon responsible and accountable for her. And then he was gone with one last comment, “Cities built on sand will not stand.”

I let one last tension-filled breath leave my lungs and was surprised when they refilled with anger. She wouldn’t pay for her crimes. She wouldn’t serve any punishment for what she had done to me and my family. There would be no repercussion for putting all of Dresen in danger. I dropped her hand and looked at her pitilessly.

She was still regaining her breath when a flood of rage-filled determination started fueling me. I wasn’t going to let her get away with what she had done. Somewhere inside me I knew I was glad she hadn’t died. My emotions were mixing and surfacing like expertly shuffled cards. I didn’t know how to be glad for her life and also angry at the lack of justice for my parents at the same time. Although I had already given forgiveness… she was going to have to earn my trust back.

Melisande said she was sorry, but I told her that I wouldn’t believe her unless she redeemed herself. I told her that we had other things pressing us, and that we needed to find Arushalae and our missing friends now. She was still mostly limp and not sitting up on her own when I brought her a bowl of water to use for scrying. It seems cruel, but still to this moment (many weeks later) I do not regret my actions. She didn’t deserve time to rest and recover – earning her redemption should be difficult. I am glad that she is not dead, but I do not think I will ever shed tears over Melisande ever again.


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