Wrath of the Righteous

Entry 39 - Facing Our Enemies

A record of events as written by Sarena Miller

Entry 39.

My eyes were closed tight in concentration and I was on my knees holding one bloody hand to the Radiance and pressing the other hand to Sociel’s chest when I finally heard his gasp of painful breath. Every part of me, inside and out, was tired. Although the power I expended was not my own, I had still channeled it through my body and into him. I opened my eyes, and saw his open as well. I placed my hand on his cheek – I was mystified that it had actually worked. I was about to embrace him when I remembered that this was Sociel and I probably was still not a welcome sight. I pulled away, sat on the floor, and let the others – who might be a more welcome sight – dote over him.

Physically, besides the shallow cut on my hand, I was completely uninjured. Calder and Sociel’s talent for healing during the fight with Staunten Vayne had seen to that. Despite that though, I still felt the discomfort of recently stitched skin and the dizzying effects of losing quite a lot of blood. I’m sure Reginald felt the same way. Once I sat on the floor I didn’t want to move.

I tried to gently remind the others that we needed to go – we still needed to find Aaron and the Sword of Valor…and most importantly, we needed to stop the Scorched Earth ritual. They seemed just as reluctant to move as I was. Melisande asked for my journal and said she needed a moment to write something down. I gave it to her though I can’t imagine what she wanted to write. Maybe her will. If we die I doubt anyone will find our bodies, so the effort seems senseless. I’m sure whatever evil killed us would use our parts for their experiments, or to possess us.

I think everyone was feeling the same sense of dread and hopelessness that I was. No one moved very quickly. Calder went to look at the mound of treasure that Sultangrabba had horded in this tower so forcing myself up, I went with him. We both pushed away the valuable gold and gems away like they were worthless. No amount of valuables were going to help us in the demon-constructed basement of this place. Well, not unless by some miracle Cyrin just happened to be standing outside the door – again.

I continued to look through the pile until I spotted a book. It was the most beautiful book I had ever seen. It was pristine white with silver filigree on all the edges and cover. When I opened it I had expected to see the same beauty carried within its pages. But there was nothing. It was blank. I brought it over to Calder to see what he thought of the book. He didn’t say anything but took out the book that had once been Eriatanyia’s journal. He wrote in it and the letters appeared in my book. We had found the twin to her journal! Something like this would be immensely useful. If we survived. I also found a scroll tube, but I didn’t open it. I probably should have.

The others were still quietly recovering, Melisande was still writing. I felt badly for interrupting the moment of peace, but it needed to be done. I told them that we had to go. We didn’t know how long we had until the ritual would be completed. They didn’t start moving immediately. I don’t blame them. I looked longingly out a widow for a minute or two while they finished what they were doing. I briefly thought of writing good-bye note to Avashniel in the back of my journal and tossing it out the window. There were too many secrets in the journal, not only mine, but about others too, and I didn’t really want Avashniel to know the amount of despair that we were feeling. If he knew that we were taking on a ritual, and that it might be suicidal, he might try to come and help us. I didn’t want that.

We did move eventually. We all deserved more time. But how much time had we already taken? Joran told us that if we did plan on going down in the basement that we should accept a spell from him. It would ward us from a powerful evil that would target us if we were to go down there without it. I still felt wary of this dwarf but I think his cowardice outweighed his evil. He was a worshipper of Droscar (which apparently was some evil god, I hadn’t heard of) but we had also helped him. Really, I wasn’t sure what to believe, but Calder trusted him. I trusted Calder. After Calder made the first move, and I followed the other followed as well, including Sociel.

Calder held the ring that we had found on Staunten to the solid door that I had studied earlier. It shimmered and became intangible. When I crossed the threshold I felt this very powerful sense of evil. It was like thick fog that got in your nose and mouth and though we should have been able to breathe normally it was difficult to do so. It was oppressive and consuming. It was also dark. Very dark. It didn’t bother me much, though I couldn’t see quite as far as I normally could in daylight, I still suffered very little in the lightless dungeon. I knew Reginald could see a little, but Mel and Calder would be in total blackness. I felt badly for them. I tried to whisper some encouragement, and tell them that I’d lead them through. I reminded Calder that we had been in such darkness much longer before. I tried to be positive for them.

It wasn’t that there was no light at all in this demon-dug basement, there was the same bioluminescent fungus that had been in the cave systems under Kenebras. But the fungus didn’t help much. In some cases it made things worse. There were shadows where it seemed there shouldn’t be any as the fungus reflected off a strangely shaped rock here and there. It was very easy for your mind to get away from you. I was strong though, surprised at my own strength, actually. At least in the beginning. Knowing that hundreds of people would die if this ritual wasn’t stopped was a powerful motivator.

The first area we moved into was an enormous cage. The doors were unlocked. Perhaps some denizens of this place had run after the battle started and didn’t bother locking the doors. The prisoners in this area weren’t in any shape to run. When we entered the cage we saw that all the inhabitants were dead. They were all paladins and they were all dead. I bent down to make sure they were actually gone and discovered that all of them had died from self-inflicted wounds. The oppression down here must have driven them mad. Perhaps the spell that Joren had given us was protecting us more than we had thought.

I took a quick look around to the other rooms that were attached to this prison area. One room was another poker area, full of fingers and toes of the unfortunate. Goddess, I just…don’t understand. I felt so incredibly angry. But clearly whoever had been here had gotten away. Why are these creatures allowed to be here? Why don’t you all come down and take them from the earth that your light shines upon? I know the reason that is thought…but I’m so angry. Not at You, Goddess. But…

It doesn’t matter. We can only be thankful for the blessings that we get and try to help ourselves the rest of the time. Sometimes when you are scared and exhausted and surrounded by evil in the dark it can seem like the life that fate has given you is a little more than thankless. There are so many things that I took for granted before. I miss sleeping in a comfortable bed. I miss not having to worry about where the next meal will come from, not only for myself but for hundreds of others. I even miss my old problems. I remember begging the Goddess to not let me die a virgin – if that isn’t the most ridiculous thing now, I don’t know what is. I remember not looking for my family, for my mother, in the sea of refugees that came with the Queen’s army because I was so worried that they weren’t going to be there. I should have been more worried about missing a single moment with them if they were there.

I could almost hear my mother’s voice in my head whispering, “Sarena, my love, why didn’t you look for us? We were there, but you didn’t find us.” Melisande and Calder were arguing behind me, Calder wanted to set something on fire, because he couldn’t see. I told him not to because it would give up any advantage of surprise that we would have now. I told them to stay calm. It was hard to stay calm. In between my words of reassurance I heard my mother’s voice, accusing me of abandoning them. I knew it must be a trick of this place, but it was hard to ignore because the words were true. We were all so tired, so thoroughly used up. Reginald and Calder said that things were biting them in the dark but when I looked with my celestial sight, there wasn’t anything there. Fear was eating at us from the inside out. Even knowing it was happening didn’t help.

We passed by some more barred cells and then came to the area that Joren said the prisoners with arcane talent were held. The way was barred without a door. In front of us was an area that held barracks or living area of some sort, and to our left we knew was the dwelling of vampires. Honestly, we didn’t know where to look for this ritual.

A door opened in front of us and several crusaders came lumbering out. They moved strangely, and were too pallid looking. They ask us to save them and when they speak we can see their sharpened vampire teeth. They beg us to save them but their motions indicate that they’re only interested in violence. We did give them a chance, but when they moved close and started to attack there was no time left to save them. I tried to tell them of Halldron and his redemption, but they didn’t believe that he had been redeemed.

When they got close I could feel them pressing on my mind. My fragile, already fully taxed mind. But then I heard it, Halldron’s smooth calm voice saying that he’s with me, and that he is protecting me. As soon as I heard his voice and assurances it was like I could breathe again. Perhaps the stress and fear had me holding my breath but knowing that he was there and watching over me gave me just the peace and strength I needed. It was as if he had a warm hand on my shoulder encouraging me and telling me that I wasn’t really alone. Oh Goddess, thank you for the gift of him.

I stepped out with Reginald and thrust at one of the vampires that now attempted to surround us. Even though my wounds couldn’t possibly have been enough to destroy these creatures just the slightest scratch turned them into dust. It had to have been Halldron. These creatures may have been his creation and now, through me, he was erasing those mistakes. If my theory was true, I was glad to be his sword arm. Goddess, thank you again for him. Just knowing that someone was with me, and believed in my ability…well, it was a feeling I had never felt before.

While Reginald and I took care of the vampires a few paces behind me Melisande said that she heard Eritanyia’s voice. I didn’t have moment to do anything besides say okay and watch her go down a hallway out of the corner of my eye. The rest of the vampires went down as quickly and as effortlessly as the first ones had. As they fell they accused us of not helping them, but they weren’t in control of their appetites like Halldron had been. They didn’t express any remorse for what they were, really, I was helping them by releasing them from their fate. Reginald begged the gods to receive them on the deeds that they performed in their life, and not their unlife. I would do the same in time.

When we were done, Reginald and I took up positions on either side of the hallway that Melisande had gone down. There was an enemy speaking, someone who addressed Melisande as “Kieriandra.” Melisande was trying to get the other to give over Eritanyia and the key to the arcane dungeon. Reginald and I were ready in case negotiations had gone poorly. Somehow, the other person that Melisande was speaking to seemed to think that he knew her and that she had some authority over him. A spell perhaps? Really, there was no way to know with her. So when she came up the hallway with Eritanyia’s limp form and a tube on a keyring I wasn’t all that surprised.

The “key” was just a tube. When Calder handled it he said it seemed hollow, but neither he or I could see any way to open the tube. I concentrated on detecting the magic that was held within the key, and once again I felt the dizzying presence of transmutation magic. I held the key to the bars thinking perhaps the magic in the key once touching the bars would transform them into a door. It didn’t work. I tried to concentrate on what I think Avashniel would have done, how he’d think in this situation. I probably should have given it more than a moment’s thought, but I was getting impatient. If there was no way to open the hollow key and the magic that was within the key didn’t open the gate, then… I just didn’t know. It seems so obvious now, but in the moment, I just shoved it at Melisande who was tending over Euritania and asked her what she thought. As much as she didn’t like Avashniel I think it’s more because they’re too alike to like each other – standoffish, too smart for anyone else, and completely talented at what they do. And of course she figured it out in a second, like he would have done. Well, mostly. She figured out that she needed to urge the key to transform – not the door – and it produced a cap! Which…she couldn’t figure out how to open. Too smart for her own good, just like he is. I took the key and twisted open the cap. There was a tiny vial inside full of swirling mist.

I sighed as the words, “mages are ridiculous” came to mind. As I sighed my breath pulled the mist from the tiny vial into my nose and mouth and I slowly transformed into a gas. I’m not sure how to describe the sensation adequately. I had to will each and every particle of my being to move forward – together – it was just… well… I’m not even sure. I didn’t know how long the transformation would last and I certainly didn’t want to rematerialize while part of me was still lingering inbetween the bars. So I moved along and reformed on the other side. I pulled the lever and let the others come in. I wanted to throw up from the whole experience.

The room it led to was large but bare and had only two doors attached to it. I went off to the right door and opened it without stepping inside. The room was positively covered from floor to ceiling with tiny carvings of butterflies. Most were crude, and all of them were small. It was baffling, and I was reluctant to go inside. There was an inscription on the far wall but it was too tiny to read without going entirely into the room. I didn’t want to. I was already on my last bits of energy and really…all these butterflies randomly in this room were pretty creepy. Melisande, shoved her way inside.

I don’t know how she knows what things are the right things to do and what are the wrongs things to do. She does certainly always seem to know. She went inside and she said it felt peaceful and quiet. I walked in after her, and what she said was true. It felt like the evil that had been present in the entire basement was gone, purged from only this butterfly-warded cell. It even felt like the Wardstone energy that had been so completely drained from my body was kindled anew. The writing on the back wall was written in Abyssal, a language that I could not read, but Melisande could. It was a beautiful few lines, and I wish I could remember what it said, but it left all of us positively sure that Arushalae, the demon-turned-Desna worshipper had once been imprisoned there. I was more certain than ever that I wanted to meet this creature and that as soon as Dresen was reclaimed I would have to hunt for her. Perhaps it would not be so hard to find her if Cyrin found out that his contract was not going to be paid because the payer was dead. Perhaps he would consider turning her over to us for payment, to cut his losses. It was something to think about – but later.

As the others were encouraged to enter the room I left its calming embrace. There were still things to accomplish, and Aaron quite possibly could be suffering in the other cell in this area.

I really had no desire to hurt Sociel again. I didn’t want to be the one to find bad news and deliver it again. It looked like Sociel himself was reluctant to go to the other door, or he really was just following our lead. I don’t know, if I were him I would have run headlong to the other cell upon finding out that the other did not contain my lover. But perhaps Sociel was more controlled than I.

I went and opened the other door, and to my complete horror the cell was covered in gore and body parts. There was blood everywhere. And Aaron’s slumped over form remained there, on the floor. I quickly knelt down to see if there was anything I could do to help him or if he was already gone and found that the body of Aaron was an illusion. I sighed, and turned when a voice spoke. It said, “I knew you would come” and disappeared. I quickly left the cell and shut the door. Sociel didn’t need to see the gore in there, even next to an illusion. I wanted to try to save him any amount pain that I could. Even if the body was an illusion the gore was very real, and there’s every reason to believe that it was Aaron’s blood. He didn’t need to see it until we were absolutely sure. And even then I would protect it from him if I could. I know he likely still hates me, even if it wasn’t all my fault – he himself isn’t blameless. But he is a good man, and I would save him pain if I could.

Thankfully I didn’t have to turn into mist to leave this prison. The mist had returned to the vial after I reformed, so I pocketed the key. It certainly might be useful later.

We hadn’t seen a door in the room that Joren told us would lead us to the forge but we knew it had to be there. I really didn’t know why one would go through so much trouble to hide a forge, but it was back there too. Since we knew the door was there it wasn’t terribly difficult to find. The room that it was in was covered in those “other” Neathholmer fetishes that we had seen when we had first encountered Hosilla. I honestly keep thinking that our Neathholmers are the only ones left of their kind, but that’s simply not true. There are many others who have lost their way. Perhaps when they see how we treat “our” Neathholmers they will change their minds. I can’t imagine that our friends would do anything but claim their places under the sun after all they have done for us. I know I wouldn’t want to see them go back underground. Unless that’s what they truly desired.

When we opened the door we discovered a metal cage. It was attached to the wall via pulleys and rope and chain and looked like it was used to get down to a lower level. It was boiling hot in this room and one glance down to the lower level showed that the forge that Joren spoke of was indeed in this room. It was being tended by four red lizard-humans. One look at the lift made it blatantly obvious that we weren’t going to get in this room without being noticed but there wasn’t any other way down. To my continued frustration, there was no sign of a ritual being held in this room. We didn’t know how much time we had left to stop it; I couldn’t help but think that every minute was our last.

We had to take the lift down in shifts, it was too small to hold us all at once. Melisande stayed back with Eriatania to work the levers while myself, Calder, Reginald, and Sociel readied ourselves for the fight ahead. I urged my sword to glow with holy energy but left it in its sheath, with one hand readied at the hilt.

We left the lift and the red lizardmen didn’t seem to be immediately hostile. Ever seeking to avoid confrontation (especially in our weakened, battered state) Calder and Reginald started working on convincing the men that we were servants of Joren sent down here to take inventory. It was made more believable by the fact that we all had Joren’s mark on our hands. They were at least willing to listen to what the others had to say.

I stayed quiet, knowing my place in these situations. Those who worship evil are often less likely to trust the lies of a golden Aasimar and I know my own weaknesses as well. I’m not the greatest liar, and I’m glad to take pride in that. So I quickly made myself scarce and took the opportunity to look around the rooms attached to this one. One room was just an inventory space with extra billows and mallets, unshaped metal portions and metal that needed to be reshaped. I exited the room just as quickly as I had entered it.

Looking around again, I saw another room with double doors, and moved to go to it. The lizardmen immediately turned and told me that I could not go that way, that no one was allowed to interrupt the ritual. Finally. Just this one last challenge and then the army would be safe. A small voice in the back of my head reminded me that just because the ritual was stopped and the Citadel wasn’t going to cave in on itself or whatever the ritual was meant to do, doesn’t mean that I personally would be safe. I was okay with that. I was more okay with it than I’d ever admit. As long as the ritual was stopped, this all would be over. Dresen was taken. Even if Hosilla got away, or Eustarix – even if we never found the Sword of Valor… Dresen would be ours. We had achieved our purpose. If I died now, it wouldn’t impact our success. The thought was freeing. I still had made promises, and I meant to keep them. But… [there is a dark mark of ink here, as if the writer had stopped to think for a long moment].

We still had to get through the door and all the better if we didn’t waste our time or our lives on these lizard creatures. Calder had sent two of them to the inventory room, and I quickly grabbed a poker and announced that they would have missed this one in the counting. I walked down the hallway to the room and shut the door behind the two clueless creatures. I shoved the poker through the loops in the iron handles of the door to bar it shut. They wouldn’t be leaving that room anytime soon. Two left to deal with.

One of the other lizard men had gone to operate the cranks to let Melisande and Erutania down into the room. Honestly, for “good” people, some of were certainly very convincing liars. But I guess when you weigh it against the other option – killing these men – I suppose that being a convincing liar is more “good.” It’s a worrisome path to follow though. Or is it? Is finding the skill within you to lie instead of kill really a bad thing? But, I don’t know. If that is true it would make lying a virtue. I guess in war, things aren’t really so clear sometimes. But I know that I’ve had my fill of death. It’s only been a few weeks since the Fifth Crusade started and I’m already exhausted of death. If learning to lie would avoid it, I would gladly do it.

When Melisande came down she put on the best performance that I had ever seen. I wonder how much of her act was improvised and how much she had planned. She said that she was Keriandra again, the sister of the dead succubus, and that the ritual could not go on without the sacrifice that she had brought, Erutania. Obviously Melisande hadn’t made it a priority to tell Erutania about the plan because the half-dead girl was frightened. Melisande waved at all of us regally and told us to attend her to the ritual. I picked up another unused poker from around the fire and followed. The lizard creatures let her go with very minimal convincing. I’m sure I would have jumbled up the argument, but Melisande’s arguments with the creatures seemed credible to me and I knew she was lying. So we went through the door and like before I slipped the poker through the iron handles of the door behind us barring the way back, but also preventing the lizards from harrying us in the future.

One glance and we knew this was the ritual that we had come to interrupt. I’m not even sure that Reginald wasted a glance before he started charging off on Montgomery. As if two deaths weren’t enough for one person, he rips right through the middle of the ritual to attack the obviously surprised Hosilla.

The ritual was a series of tiles on the floor, which I suppose had been placed in a very specific way before Reginald flew through them. They were scattered now. There was also a line drawing on the floor and an enormous crystal hanging over where the tiles had been. As soon as Reginald ran through the tiles the ritual lit up with green light and pools of lava started to bubble around the room. Clearly whatever he had done had set something off prematurely. The ritualists around the tiles looked horrified, and so did Hosilla. But it wasn’t a look of annoyance as if we had interrupted their plans, it was a look of abject horror as if we were all going to die soon. One of these days Reginald’s carelessness was going to get us all killed and at that point I wasn’t very sure that the day hadn’t already come.

There wasn’t much choice at this point but to attack and hope that we weren’t all killed by them or the ritual before we figured out how to stop it. I ran up to the nearest cultist and sliced several times, as quickly as I could. Calder did the same, and I suppose even Sociel was feeling the time pressure because he jumped in too.

… and Melisande picked up a tile and dropped it on the floor. I’m pretty sure Hosilla and I were both wearing the same horrified face. Did Melisande really think that breaking a tile would stop the ritual? Clearly running across them on a dog didn’t do it! I let out a small sigh of relief when the tile didn’t break as it hit the floor. …and then Melisande brought her foot down on the tile and cracked it into pieces. The pools of fire and lava groaned and spit behind us as if they too were incensed by Melisande’s actions. I yelled at her to stop. We all did. The cultists fell easily, and strangely enough I was more concerned about what Melisande was doing than the mortal danger the cultists posed.

It’s worth mentioning that Hosilla encased herself in a bubble of force immediately after Reginald hit her the first time. She seemed ready for him. He was completely unable to harm her and she was completely unable to do anything to help herself or the cultists with her. At this point there was only one or two cultists left standing. I pleaded with them to see reason – that their mistress was clearly abandoning them to their fates and saving herself. They didn’t care. One died soon thereafter, and another, so fearful of what Melisande was doing, tackled her to the ground and pinned her there. Honestly, none of us made any motions to help Melisande because we were just as afraid of what damage she was causing.

I started quickly looking at the ritual in front of me, 9 boxes, with 9 tiles. They had symbols on them that I didn’t recognize. This lack of arcane knowledge was quickly becoming an irritating pattern. There were places, like this one, that I would never want to bring Avashniel, but I still need his knowledge. But he wasn’t here, I was. If it took every mote of my arcane knowledge to figure this out, then I was going to do it. I started counting lines, noting patterns. There was a pattern on the floor that I assumed the cultists were trying to make, but I wasn’t sure. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was completing the ritual for them, or undoing it like I meant to. Sociel stood next to me and also looked at the puzzle. I called down some magic to mend the tile that Melisande had broken and continued to think. The bubbling lava was maddening. I found myself listening to it rather than focusing on the problem in front of me.

There were other things going on in the room too. Melisande took to heckling Hosilla, but I’m pretty sure Hosilla was more concerned about her own life than Melisande’s taunts. Calder had moved to the side of the room where he was talking to some very angry-looking Neathholmers. They were all familiar to me, but most of them were either actively attacking Calder or looking pretty aggressive towards him. They must have been possessed in some way and Calder was finding a way to talk them down. If anyone could talk sense into them it was Calder, they loved him as one of their own.

And still this puzzle eluded me. There was some sort of pattern forming because I counted lines and the tiles could clearly be numbered one to nine. But there was the problem of not knowing what pattern to make with the tiles. If I just put them in the squares as one through nine, who knows, maybe that would set the ritual off! Sociel was looking at the etching on the floor though, and saw that it looked vaguely like a butterfly. Well, he thought it did and maybe he was right, he did have an artistic inclination. I followed my logic from before and counted the points – fifteen. It was a stretch of logic, but could the tiles be placed in rows that would make fifteen? Would that solve the puzzle? Between me and Sociel we really couldn’t think of anything else that would guide us to a solution.

Hosilla scoffed at our idiocy and told us that we didn’t know what we were doing. I told her that if she didn’t want to die with us then she would have to help us. I told Reginald to get ready to charge her as soon as she dropped her shield in case she tried to get away that way she had to either help us or suffer an attack from Reginald.

Very honestly, as much grief as she’s given us, and as much as I didn’t think it would have mattered to her, I very seriously thought about apologizing to her. I looked at her and saw a desperate woman. I want to think that she only did vile things under the city of Kenebras because she and her people were mortally threatened. They did not live a good life and finally saw a chance at something. She brutally killed her husband too, she clearly wasn’t a good person. Or maybe she was just insane with desperation. Maybe she could be redeemed, and those who followed her too. There wasn’t chance to find out. She didn’t want to help us save the city, she took her chance with Reginald. She dropped her shield and Reginald struck a massive wound. But she was an underdweller and could handle it. She cast a spell and disappeared. And we were left to save the city alone.

So I figured out how to arrange the piles to make fifteen in every row… and it worked. Goddess bless, it worked. The bubbling lava cooled behind us and the whole room felt like a charge was now gone. I closed my eyes for a very brief moment and thanked the Goddess. Everyone in Dresen was safe now from whatever destruction would have come from this.

But we weren’t done. We’re never done. We still hadn’t found Aaron or Eustarix. Maybe they fled – Eustarix in Aaron’s body. But we also hadn’t found the Sword of Valor, and I didn’t think they had fled with it. Those items are usually locked to the plane they’re on, or so I’d heard, and we hadn’t seen them physically leave with it. Maybe they left it behind and teleported away without it. Somehow I didn’t think we’d be so lucky.

I took a deep breath and went over to Calder who was still speaking to the Neathholmers. He was singing to them off and on, and it seemed like it was working. One had put his weapon away, and another seemed to be coming out of it as well. I stood by Calder, just giving him support of my presence, but I didn’t do anything else. I wanted to go, to get this all done, for good or ill… but reclaiming these Neathholmers was important to him, and to me too. My soul was tired, my will was tired, my mind and body were all tired. I probably could have laid down anywhere in that foul place and fell asleep.

After a little more time the Neathholmers came around to remembering who they were. Perhaps Hosilla being gone helped too. We left Erutania, bound, with them.

There were doors barring the way, but none of them were locked. Honestly, that was more frightening. If whatever was blocking the way to the Sword of Valor wasn’t behind a locked door that means it was probably very dangerous. You only lock doors when you think you can’t protect something.

We found a long hallway, empty of anything living, and at the end of it… was the Sword of Valor. It was hanging on a wall, on display. Everyone approached cautiously, but Goddess… I wanted so badly for this torture to be over. I walked more quickly than everyone. Maybe I was reckless. There were statues leading the way. Statues of Descari defiling the other gods. Ripping out Sarenrae’s throat. Raping Iomedae. They were graphic and horrible, but beautifully carved. Some insane person with incredible artistic prowess had to have made them. Demons never seemed to possess the ability. I tried not to look at them. Especially at the rape of Iomedae… I had never seen – penetration – before, and it was so graphic and intricate… I felt wrong for feeling… it was wrong. Running past it was all I could do.

At the banner, I knew I shouldn’t have touched it. But what was the worst that could happen? Another mimic? I reached for it. I whispered silently to the Goddess, praying, knowing that if I was anything at all I was a devout and true follower. I begged her blessing, I wanted so badly to be the one to activate the banner again, and protect everyone. I wanted everyone to live, it’s all I’ve ever wanted. Sometimes your deepest desires can blind you to obvious truths. Does that make your desires wrong? So I reached out for the banner… and then everything changed.

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