“Only when you know pain, will you know truth…”
“Only when you submit yourself to the will of the fire, will you be allowed to know our secrets.”
I did not know it immediately, but it seems I had heard those words before… tonight I dreamt them. A dream so vivid, so real… maybe it was?
In it, I was just a boy, barely 10, towering in front of me, a great fire, raging in the town square. One by one, boys go in, glory and honors to those that come out, but to those that don’t… Their family does not mourn, at least, not in any traditional sense. Threats of exile, because their spawn was not strong enough, their genes are weak… and so on.
Then it was my turn.
In I went, like a child, staring down from a cliff into a lake, the other boys daring you to jump in, only you don’t jump, you get pushed off. I was pushed in, not by boys, not by me, but by adults, adults that, too, experienced the pain of fire. Adults that revered those who were able to walk tall after the Trial, tolerated those who merely made it out with some semblance of life, and scorned those too weak to make it. If the fire didn’t kill you, if you cried, or begged, then you father came in to get you. Although, he didn’t come to pull you out… no no, he comes to put you down. I have seen this in my drea—my memories. Those boys were done a favor, best be executed, that allow you family to live with the fact that they raised a weak failure. So in I was, I did not know what to feel, I was in the fire, was it supposed to burn? I laughed. The flames felt almost cool as they licked my skin, I laugh harder. Out I came, laughing, wondering if that was all there was, cheers and applause. Then comes The Marking, images of great battles and symbols of power etched onto my skin by a searing needle, the brands are then blessed by the men of the clergy, then enchanted by the men of the academy. I thought this would be like the fire, cool to the touched, but the pain, and my flesh was burned off my body and black scorch marks left in its place, the ritual is complete. I am an adult. A man.
Since I woke up with no recollection of who I really am, I’ve seen things… done things. Things the me in those dreams would have killed me for. Things, that, still, somewhere inside, I know I should not be doing, but sitting stagnant is a worse offence than whatever it is I am doing, so I will continue doing so. I am indebted to a village for saving my life. If I was a killer, I live to kill another day, if I was a lover, I live to love another day. Whatever I may be, I am still alive to be them. Eventually, it seems, all my memories will return, and I will be forced to make another decision with my life. That day is not today.
Today, we saw the harshness that the Atrocidan desert has to offer, mutant scorpions, Ash worms, even a dust devil. And underneath it all… a GROVE…imagine that!! Years of land torn asunder, ravaged by my people, ravaged by elementals, and to be fair, ravaged by those that wish to tap the land for its resources, and a group have been dedicating their lives to rebuilding what was once lush vegetation and clean drinking water.
It’s these same druids that denied us passage through (what we didn’t know at the time was) their grove. After some heated discussion between Tianna and the 5 of their order barring us from passing through, we were given some directions, direction that would supposedly take us around danger and lead us safely back on our path… we were tricked.
Was Arcadius so resolute in keeping his secret that he would lead innocent travelers, even a child, to die in the lawless wastes of Atrocida? Only to return and “rescue” us from the very dangers they put us against. Then force us to submit to their demands, of which included, a geas spell, which barred us from ever speaking of what we saw…but apparently not writing about it, to outsiders. Even if we were barred from writing, this is not being written TO outsiders, this is a collection of personal thoughts, and if, one day, the should end up in the hands of an outsider, before their project is complete, then I am already dead, and you can choke on your geas. I refuse to take orders, even being asked to HELP these people!! AFTER their leader knowingly placed us in harms way. This does not sit well with my at all, but I cannot survive this ordeal alone, and there is a debt to be paid, but it is not to these charlatans and fools, its to honest folk, so are being oppressed, and I owe my life to. Some of the group are considering being inducted into this “noble” order once our mission is complete. I guess they don’t see things the way I do, and I couldn’t care any less, the mission is the mission. It will get done.
A few observations:
We took on a new traveling companion, a female fighter that was also hired to guard the caravan, she seems able enough, but she is not bound to the group, but another sword arm, especially a capable one like hers is hard to come by. It will be interesting to see what she will do after our delivery is complete.
For a boy shrouded in death, Paki is certainly intent on living. He is very hard to kill, yet he is the frailest of the group, a true enigma, indeed! The way people and creatures freeze at his gaze, and flee in terror with a few incantations… a marvel to behold. He would be revered in Crucible, there is a value,even in one as diminutive as he… especially when this diminutive creature can bring things 5 times his size to its knees. That is a quality any military would covet.
Tianna is a bit of an oddball, but there is a peace about her. I would venture to guess it’s her attunement to the natural forces that surround us, it could also be that she has a giant tree for a bodyguard, but she instills a sense of calm into the group. Copec, cannot say much apparently, but he has the sharpest set of eyes in the group, I’m glad at least one of us can talk to him. I wonder how long he’s lived? What has he seen?
Julian hides many things he cannot or will not tell. I can respect that. Ones secrets are just that, one’s own. When someone knows, then it ceases to be secret, yes? I would be interested in knowing where the wind takes him when this is all said and done.
So journal, I guess this is where we end our conversation for the night, I will rest as best I can and leave this unnatural landscape, forged with Arcana and Divine energies, if it’s true that Gods created all that surrounds them… then it’s good we’re leaving soon, I would hate to be in their position when some god, not fond of someone muscling in on their creation deal, smites them for playing gods themselves.
And I will dance inside those fires.
I guess parts of the old me aren’t so dead after all.