I have to face the possibility that I may be losing my mind.
The dreams have become worse. They grow in specificity and detail. I have grown to dread falling asleep, as these visions torment me all night and haunt me when I am awake. I am sleeping for shorter and shorter periods of time, and I know the lack of sleep is bound to catch up with me sooner or later. But I loathe to close my eyes, for fear of what I’ll see. Even though the song in my dreams keeps getting clearer, and louder, so do the portents of destruction. Her song may be a delicate carp, but it’s being swallowed by a whale.
Perhaps it is better to pick up from where I left off in my last entry. We approached the great port of Lorut from the desert. It is truly massive, the largest city I have ever seen. It spreads out for miles, in a great semi-circle surrounding the Crescent Harbor, split in twain by the delta of the Snake River. Getting closer, you can begin to make out the buildings, built on top of one another with little concern as to a singular aesthetic. Here, people live right on top of one another. There are wide boulevards, but many streets are really no more than alleyways, twisting and turning without any particular reason, an urban labyrinth swallowed in an excited, never-ceasing chattering of voices. The most peculiar scents drift through the air, combining in new and unexpected ways, some pleasant and others utterly repulsive.
Weaving our way through these streets, led by our Lorutian native Coronatum, we headed for the docks, where we were told that we could find Koran, who was aligned with the Dark Legion and would have information for us regarding Aislynn’s hunt for vengeance. We happened upon the merchant that we saved from the burning caravan, supervising a shipment being offloaded. He introduced himself as Toryn, and suggested that we take rooms at the Silver Drake, a nearby inn that was, thankfully, upwind of the fish markets. He also gave us some kind of elephant sculpture as a token of his appreciation for the rescue that both Lahktar and Aislynn seemed particularly interested in. It was an elegant piece of art, but I frankly don’t know what we would need with fine art on our journey. Aislynn wound up with it, which seemed to make her happy. That’s a rare condition for her, so I decided to hold my tongue about the questionable utility of such an object.
We made our arrangements at the inn, and Lahktar decided he wanted to wander the city. Unsure if I particularly cared if he managed to get lost, he left. The rest of the group was exhausted from our desert sojourn and decided to rest. I did not want to sleep, though I was tired. I decided to put my restlessness to good use. Drawing on a ritual taught to me many years ago by Meros, I took some of the dragon’s blood that we had persevered and drew arcane sigils on the floor of our room. These were wards against the undead, which I hoped would not be of any use to us. However, the forces of the Deathwind had already ambushed us once, along the banks of the Snake River. It was not unlikely that they would want to strike at us again. Here, in this inn, we would be most vulnerable. And so I drew the sigils with my fingers, finding a measure of calm in the precision the task required. When it was done, I felt some relief, a rare emotion these days.
When the rest of my companions awoke, we decided to split up. Aislynn, Hilde and I decided to seek out Koran with some information we had obtained from Toryn, while Coronatum returned to the temple of his god Avandra to speak with the head of his order. While we walked to the mercenary hub where we would find Koran, I noticed that the citizens of Lorut seemed to have a common goodbye. The first would say, “Avandra be praised,” and the second would say, “And may she watch your path.” I found it to be quite poetic, though most who spoke it said it with the same fervor as others said “goodbye”. It may have been new and fascinating to me, but each of these speakers had heard it a million times. I believe it is true what they say, that no matter how wondrous something is, familiarity often bleeds away that wonder.
At the mercenary hub, we searched for Koran. We came upon Lahktar, who was excitedly talking to a merchant with that glint of confidence in his eye that usually meant he was biting off more than we could chew. Whatever promise he made, we would deal with it later. We told the merchant to meet us at the inn tomorrow, queasy as to what Lahktar might have already promised. Once we had dealt with that unexpected situation, we continued to search the dank, sweaty market. A dragonborn mercenary wielding a chain, in an attempt to drum up business for her company, challenged any comers. Hilde, perhaps following the dictates of her tribe, the Wen, took her up on the challenge. This dragonborn was huge, bigger than any human could be. The dragonborn seemed to not take Hilde very seriously, but that quickly changed when Hilde slammed into her at full charge, knocking her out of her stance. The two beat the hell out of each other, and the impromptu betting odds seemed to shift with each blow. They essentially fought to a standstill, earning Hilde the admiration of the majority-dragonborn crowd. As the crowd dispersed, we caught glimpse of a dragonborn matching our description of Koran.
Aislynn immediately asked for her information, and the answer shocked me. He claimed that a tiefling wizard called Meros, who had taken residence in a villa here in town, was part of the slaving ring Aislynn sought to destroy. I felt an anger rise in me that I had not felt in my life. Was it the lack of sleep? Perhaps, but I have been tired before and never lost my temper. Was it the dreams that I have been having, souring my mood and priming me to explode? Perhaps. Or it could be that the mystical energies that I have been channeling have been too much for me to handle, and that I am going mad. I verbally tore into Koran, demanding to know how he dared slander the name of the great Meros. He began to back down, but I was not satisfied. I continued to threaten him, telling him that a wizard had only two things of importance in life—his power, and his reputation. The fear grew in his eyes, and shamefully, that only goaded me on. I clearly must have been making a scene, as Hilde made a move to restrain me. A red-hot geyser of rage erupted in me, and I wound up firing a bolt of energy off in Hilde’s direction. I cannot say for sure, even now, that I did not mean to hit her. Koran took the opportunity to scurry away, for which I can’t blame him. We left, and I can only wonder what impression I had made for our band of adventurers.
We went back to the inn, where I got some fitful sleep after a night of heavy drinking. That is a habit I do not wish to get into. The next morning, the merchant that Lahktar was talking to came to our inn. His son had gotten into trouble in Lorut, apparently offending a high-ranking member of Protence society. The merchant offered us all manner of reward to save him. We said that we had some business in Lorut, but that we would be willing to look for his son when we headed to Protence. Meanwhile, Coronatum said that he wanted to take both me and Hilde somewhere, which would allow Lahktar and Aislynn to investigate the villa of “Meros”, and hopefully find some answers.
When we stepped out of the inn, we were accosted by a group of devotees to the Raven Queen, acolytes of that miserable old wizard al-Hiraj. They accused me of being a necromancer, which is unfair; I have been touched with dark energies, yes, but that does not mean that I raise the dead. I have a staff that allows me to control undead already raised, but I would not create some abominations myself and would destroy any once my immediate purpose was done. But al-Hiraj has never been known for his flexibility or willingness to tolerate unorthodoxy from his particular interpretation of the Raven Queen’s dictates. His acolytes attacked us, and again that rage burst from within me. Honed by anger, I unleashed a massive energy burst, tinted with the necrotic energy imbued within the Shadowfell gloves I wear. If he wanted to speak of necromancy, I would be happy to give him a taste of necrotic energy.
The battle raged in the street, and civilians ran and cowered as energy and steel wildly flailed in the streets. Snipers fired crossbow bolts from the roof; one hit me, but was not able to get through my armor. I pulled it out, and noticed that they were using poison-tipped bolts. Amidst the screaming and the terror, it was difficult for any of us to really focus our concentration, but eventually Aislynn took down the acolytes’ leader. I told the rest to run lest they meet the Raven Queen themselves, and they took off. I went over to the acolyte and confirmed who sent him. Ever time I have ever been in the presence of al-Hiraj, he has filled me with nothing but terror. Seized up with that same terror, enraged at the sudden and unwarranted attack, I asked the acolyte leader whether the legends about al-Hiraj speaking to the dead were true. He claimed to not know…and I stabbed him in the gut, and as his eyes fluttered said to him, “Then you can find out for yourself.”
I stood, and my entire band looked at me with eyes that seemed mixed with fear and judgment. I simply asked, “What?” and went back into the inn to clean off and take some time to collect my thoughts, which I have poured into this journal. The acolyte leader was of no immediate threat to me anymore, and yet I killed him. Yes, it sends a message to al-Hiraj, but at what terrible cost? What have I become? Have I lost my mind?
I do not know. But this party looks to me for leadership and guidance. I cannot let them down. I cannot let them see these cracks. For their sake, for the sake of this continent, for my own sake, I must control myself and my emotions. Otherwise, what would it matter even if I gained the entire world, if I lost my mind to do so?