Well, I don’t have much in the way of faith, but I do pride myself on my insight and resolve. I deduced that if a Trial of Faith presented one with fearsome difficulties, the only way to pass would be to persevere. Note that this does not necessarily imply that perseverance guarantees survival; it’s a necessary condition, but not automatically a sufficient one. That is to say, the gods might be perfectly content to design a test of will in which a person of strong mind but weak body could keep faith and yet die trying. To live in the world is to know that the justice of the gods is imperfect at best.
All of which meant that I had excellent reason to forego the test. It seemed unlikely that multiple rewards would be given; only one of us needed to pass the test. But when Paki stepped through the veil of darkness alone, I knew that I had to follow. I could never forgive myself if the test destroyed him and I didn’t at least try to help.
But I didn’t intend to act in blind faith. Well, not figuratively speaking, at least. Literally, I was indeed blind. I proposed that those of us who had not yet taken our leap of faith should hold hands. In this way, anyone who fell could be carried by the others. If Paki or Jerrick were lying helpless in front of us, we might hope to find them by stumbling over them.
It was indeed a fearsome experience, walking through the cold darkness and feeling my pose and confidence drawn out of my body. By the time we made it out, I felt quite … common. But we made it through together – albeit Copac had to carry Tianna towards the end.
In the end was a holy chamber inhabited by a tree and a shadow, both of which attacked us. The shadow seemed invulnerable to mortal weapons and Tianna succeeded at opening diplomatic relations with the tree, which left Paki and me at loose ends. We investigated the altar and found a knife marked with quite archaic runes. I was able to puzzle out their meaning, more or less – the knife was meant to shed one’s blood on sanctified fertile soil, of which there was a convenient patch nearby.
Not being the holy sort, I had no intention of actually cutting myself and bleeding all over the place. It seemed like a rather foolish thing to do, really. But Paki is the holy sort, and he did just that. It was a rather frightening spectacle, but afterwards the temple seemed to recognize him as one of its own. So did the amulet, which allowed him to lift the curse on our merchant contact.
That done, it became possible to fulfill our mission. The details of the deal are complex and have been specified in Appendix A. The important thing is that I have successfully set up my ore-for-food scheme in such a way that the villagers should be able to keep it going without me. The important thing is that I am free of the heavy burden of obligation which I have been carrying. It’s quite a relief.
What now? Ever since his experience in the temple Paki has been behaving strangely. I even caught the kid trying to be a street preacher, which was equal parts pathetic and unnerving. Well, we’re apparently contractually obliged to go adventuring (see Appendix A), so I suggested we might go looking for other temples of the ancient life/death cult. It seemed to satisfy the boy’s need to do something about his new religious convictions. There’s also the chance that we might get some more information about the ominous warnings we encountered in the temple (see Appendix B). I don’t really think of myself as the saving-the-world type, but I do want the world to keep existing. After all, that’s where I keep my stuff.