The Midwife is a conduit to creation
Though she cannot create on her own.
She serves as the key for new life or information
To enter the world or be shown.
Her heart can see good in the worst situation
Or make the import of arrivals be known,
But if she’s turned down and up-turned is the boy
The new arrival will bring no joy.
He is back — dear fates, him, he who tormented me all those years, who whispered to those doctors that they should bore into my skull. I didn’t know at first. He didn’t present himself in vision like some of the others, but I could feel him there, that evil presence, crawling scorpion-like through my thoughts, quiet and calculating and cruel. "Yes, Riva, cut the hand off of that corpse. It will make good bait.” Aron rebuked me for that, justly. I felt sick once I realized what I had done. And yet that didn’t stop me from calling for the captured cultist to be killed by our mongrelman allies, twisting our pact to not harm them. I thought nothing of it at the time, but now ….
I have returned to the cards as part of my daily meditation. There is no denying their part in my heritage. I honor my training, true, but the Harrow is part of who I am.
So I drew the Midwife, she the symbol of birth amid loss. She was the first shard of hope I had seen amidst the wreckage of Kenabres. And with her I could feel someone who I hadn’t known for a few years, who had helped me through the wreckages past. Galea. How many times had she been there to heal my mind? Now, all I could feel was a desire to heal others, to help in some small way the people fleeing from that wounded city. There were too many.
The dreams have been visiting again. No writing, so far.
We waited throughout the day to return. I could hardly bear it, knowing that Ivan was out there. Helping those who passed the mill we took refuge in made the time pass, but in truth there was little we could do. I kept watching the Sun creep slowly across the southern sky until it hovered westward over the Worldwound, its color deepening to a vividly unnatural violet, silhouetting the smoke rising from Kenabres. Late afternoon we made our way to a break in the city’s outer wall and hid there until night. In the crevasse below horrid things crawled.
Nightfall came so slowly as the Sun fell below the acrid haze. Cries of the dying and damned resounded everywhere. I did all I could to breathe, though the air burnt my lungs. I pictured the stream through Bellows Park back home. I was thankful that Galea was with me.
We ventured out under cover of darkness. We avoided the demons but came across a troop of deranged and diseased soldiers. Locke refused to pass by, and I did not disagree with him, and yet …. One strangling to death a woman, perhaps his wife. So much death and horror here. Upstairs was a baby. Remembering the Midwife, I thought there may be a measure of redemption — but he too was diseased, eyes glowing red, skin peeling off. There was nothing we could do. The building reeked of infection, diseased blood pooling on the floor, spilled and splattered everywhere by combat with those shells of men. Barca got it the worst. I will watch him and do whatever I can to prevent this horrid fever from spreading.
We went to Gwerm Manor first. It was suspiciously intact, but no demons seemed to guard it. And thank fates, in the dungeon below was poor Ivan! Unconscious and badly beaten, arm broken and probably some ribs. But he is alive! Some guards were locked up as well, betrayed by their commander, Ulenik — just as Ivan had deduced, and yet for all his cunning he still was caught! Foolhardy as ever! I’ll yell at him later, once he’s in better health. Healing him then was beyond my abilities. We had no choice but to leave him with the guards, in the relative safety of the manor’s basement. Thank fates he is alive! I don’t know what I would do without him, especially now.
Next, to the prison, to try to rescue Keeya and the others. We passed through the shattered passages of the New Kenabres wall, full of the dead, to the South Gate jail. There we found Keeya and Neleryn and Nelethiel’s body. Keeya was terrified and weak, but I feel she will recover. Of Neleryn I am not so sure. His racist arrogance always set him in self-imposed isolation, with only his sister connecting him to the rest of us. Without her lifeline, I fear that he is lost to us.
Downstairs was the tiefling, the likely cause of it all. And in going down there to retrieve him, Trynna and Barca caught the attention of two demons — Babaus, I now realize in the clarity of hindsight, though at the time my mind was all but frozen. They almost killed us. I wonder how much truth was in the guard’s report. Much I suspect. The Midwife holds a tiefling, surrounded by blood and loss:
But if she’s turned down and up-turned is the boy,
The new arrival will bring no joy.
I started this day with hope from this reading, but now even that has gone bitter.
The others had lost their ability to see through this darkness, their potions expired, so I set out to the Librarium of the Broken Black Wing on my own. It was a relief to be alone and to wrap the shadows around me and walk through this place of demons, seeing but unseen. And it was a relief to find Auctus there, the last of our company unaccounted for, along with Riftwardens — powerful ones at that. Through invisibility and teleportation, they moved everyone to the Librarium.
It is there that I write this, beyond exhaustion. I feel the need to record what I have seen, and to push back sleep a bit longer. I should check on how Barca is doing.