The Twin signals duality of purpose or identity. This doppelganger can also mean indecision, as a person or group wavers between very different options. It can also mean divided loyalties abound. The card makes a harrower wary, as it can also mean the entire spread has a hidden or reversed meaning.
There is so much to write of today. The symbol dreams, the Black Butterfly, and now these wings. The vision, as I drew from my Harrow deck. Ailara, my wind spirit! And finally Arueshalae. All of it under the sign of the Twin, a card rife with dual purposes and hidden meanings.
The dream was like the one I wrote about on the 16th of Rova. Reading that old entry, I had no idea what I was seeing, but now I believe it was the first sign that the Black Butterfly was part of these dreams. That night too I’d been exhausted and had fallen asleep early. Instead of the blue star, I saw a huge butterfly, its wings dotted with as many stars as the night sky itself. There was a serenity to it, unlike the terror that normally accompanies those dreams. This time the symbols started forming, appearing fast and dense upon the hills below me, faster than I had ever seen it before. The pain in my head was as intense as it ever was, and my whole back was wracked with agony as I felt my body changing, broken down and reformed. Yet as I stared at that butterfly, I felt its silent calmness. I closed my eyes and surrendered to that darkness. In that moment the pain stopped. I opened my eyes and saw that in place of the butterfly there was a woman like a living silhouette, except for her perfectly white hair and her wings, which remained the same, reflecting all the stars of the cosmos.
Ivan tells me that I was writing on the walls, chanting loudly enough that he covered my mouth lest someone think I was possessed by demons. I don’t remember that. I just remember waking up standing and seeing him stagger backward away from me, staring wide-eyed. A lock of my hair dangled in front of my face, and I could see that it was stark white. Then I realized: from my back there were wings, great butterfly wings, marked with galaxies and stars.
Next I remember I was lying on the floor, Ivan and Keeya reviving me. The wings were somehow gone, but not for a moment did I imagine that they had been a dream. I could see as much in the way Ivan looked at me. The pain was gone too. My head, and recently my back — they are always in agony after the dreams, never mind ones of this intensity. But now, I felt fine, aside from my head swimming and my nose burning from the smelling salts. It was as if a fever had broken, a fever that had lasted the past two months. Dear fates let it be so!
At that point it was midnight, and time to make my drawing. With the others still gathered around me, I placed my hand on the Harrow deck that Mama gave me — and the next vision began.
I won’t repeat everything that I heard there — I’m still processing much of it — but seeing these spirits for the first time was almost as shocking as what I heard. Maybe that sounds strange, but for someone who depends almost entirely on her sight, the ability to finally see them, momentary though it was, was a fascinating revelation.
Galea was the first to appear.
She is indeed a middle-aged elven woman, wearing the colorful robes of a Desnan priest and bearing a star knife. But what I saw most clearly was the sadness in her eyes. Thinking back it’s clear now, but for so long I missed the sadness in her voice, which so often accompanied her words of care. I can make the excuse of not being accustomed to hearing emotion, but still … it saddens me to have missed that for so long. Galea, I owe you so much. As I begin to better understand this burden of yours, I will do everything I rightfully can to give your soul peace. But I hope that you can find forgiveness. I can’t begin to fully understand the pain and anger you feel because of Arueshalae — because of the creature she once was — but the person she is now has helped me through dreams better understand the nature of my powers, and it has been a great relief to me. There is kindness and goodness in her, I swear it. Please, pray to Desna for guidance and forgiveness. I will pray for you as well.
Next to appear was Livia.
Even before she spoke, I recognized that ever-calculating, manipulative presence in my mind. She is trying to corrupt Galea, trying to bend her anger into evil; I will not let her. Her bearing is every bit as arrogant as her words, her appearance calibrated to intimidate, right down to the necklace bearing the pentagram of Asmodeus, resting right over whatever she has left of a heart.
And yet … seeing her reminded me of a portrait of my great grandmother, which sits in a place of honor on the mantle back home. Dad said she was the only person who ever treated him with kindness when he was a boy. There is no mistaking it: this Livia strongly resembles her. But in place of the warm smile I remember from the picture, there are only hard eyes and the sneer of cold command. Still, she too is surely in pain. And however much I wanted to deny it, I can now plainly see that her claim was right: she is family. Is she in reach of redemption?
I have hope, and I will ask the good spirits to help me in this. In this it seems I have a new ally and friend! The third voice in the dream, a voice that I have never before heard, belongs to the kind wind spirit. She is a sylph, named Ailara.
Until now she has just been a distant presence, remaining quiet and just watching. Yes, watching. I can feel her in my thoughts now, and I’m sure that watching is right. She reminds me very much of Keeya: so very shy, but always curious and observant. I think Livia — ah, perhaps I should just accept it and call her Aunt Livia. Alright. I think Aunt Livia said something about Ailara knowing Keeya. I think. It all went by in such a blur, and there was so much to take in. I’ll have to ask Keeya about this. When the time is right. There’s been enough tragedy associated with these spirits that I want to broach the topic with care.
There was another as well, that deathly presence that first haunted me back at the Center, who when he last possessed me somehow compelled me to mutilate a corpse, cutting off its hand. He did not fully materialize, thank fates. I do not want to ever see his face. The other spirits were clearly frightened of him as well — and perhaps frightened of what I might do under his power.
The vision passed in an instant. I found myself again sitting on my meditation blanket, Harrow deck in my left hand, fingertips of my right just brushing against the top card. I drew it.
The Twin. What other card could it possibly be?
“The Twin signals duality of purpose or identity.” Indeed. I think multiplicity of identity is a fair reading, though the dueling influences of Galea and Aunt Livia would also fit — or, it seems, the dueling influences within Galea herself. Or Arueshalae.
“This doppelganger can also mean indecision, as a person or group wavers between very different options. It can also mean divided loyalties abound.” Again, this fits both myself and my spirits, and it fits Arueshalae.
And finally, the note of caution: “The card makes a harrower wary, as it can also mean the entire spread has a hidden or reversed meaning.” Even for a single draw, the card speaks of hidden meanings.
Making this mix all the more potent is the timing. Mama once told me that the influence of The Twin is at its most powerful during the month of Neth. I don’t understand why that is — I am but a novice at these readings. There’s just so much more about the Harrow that Mama could have taught me, if that damned Center had not torn me away for all those years! If all those nights had not been spent in nightmare, the days spent in fear! If I had only had the strength to— Stop. That is past, that is done. I have new friends now, and thank fates, I still have Ivan. As for the connection between The Twin and Neth, perhaps Kyrk would have an idea. I need to learn to trust my friends. The old fears are so hard to shake sometimes.
My focus wanders. It has been such a long day.
The Twin is a true neutral card, putting me in contact with all my spirits. I did not hesitate to invite Ailara into my mind. She was a voice of goodness and forgiveness in the vision. I wish to know her better. And finally … I feared channeling Galea, not knowing how she would react.
Those visions and that drawing — that perfect drawing — left me quite shaken. Combined with the anticipation of finally meeting Arueshalae, I barely slept.
In the morning, Irabeth came to take us to the cells below. What to say of Arueshalae? She is beautiful; she is terrifying. Whatever the change of heart she has had, she outwardly remains a succubus and a demon: horns, red eyes, bat-like wings, and a long red tail that moves with a sinuous, seductive dance of its own. For all the times I have seen her in my dreams, facing her there, in reality, was a shock I had not expected.
The catacombs of Drezen are a terror as well. Voices of damnation whisper constantly, a demonic chatter enough to drive brave men mad. It even was enough to get under Barca’s skin, and he had to return to the upper levels to recover.
Arueshalae and I spoke under the careful watch of paladin guards, who prevented private conversation or contact. Likely this was for the best. I am wary of everything that has happened today, all of it subject to The Twin’s influence.
I carefully broached the subject of Galea’s death. It seems central to Arueshalae’s conversion. Arueshalae seemed wracked with guilt about this, but it was important to hear. I think it was also important for her to say it. It happened in Ustalav, some 70 years ago. She admitted to luring Galea to an inn, where over the course of three days she drained away her life. As Galea lay sleeping, on the edge of death, Arueshalae looked into her mind and let herself dream. There, Desna found her. And rather than smiting her as a demon that had killed one of her own, Desna forgave her. In that miracle, the path to redemption was opened.
The others doubt. Irabeth warns of lies from “the succubus,” as she insists on calling her. Locke remains adamantly opposed and did not want me to even speak with her. Kyrk is concerned about her gaining influence over me. Still, in my heart I feel that her words are true. I feel that the duality in Arueshalae is not between lies and truth, but between temptation and redemption. Please, Desna, make it be true. Have you forgiven this woman? Can her path lead to you?
Arueshalae also told us of the tower where the Bell of Mercy can be found. A great spider is there, a demon spider. However horrifying, it may be a temporary ally, for it hungers for other demons. How can these monsters be so madly boiling with evil that they constantly devour and cross their own? That is the one grace that could save us all.
Time was running short, but I thanked and thanked Arueshalae for the dreams she had sent me, for the vision of the Black Butterfly, for the hope that revelation gave to me. I told her how she was already doing good, even if only through those dreams. She seemed deeply moved, a tear running down her cheek. I admit to starting to cry a bit myself.
That was enough for the guards. But before we left, Arueshalae offered a gift. I wanted to accept, but I could not. I was afraid that letting Arueshalae further into my mind might hurt and enrage Galea. Then there is the influence of Jerribeth; I did not tell Arueshalae about that.
Instead, we called Barca back down. This time, he was able to steady himself against the voices. We discussed whether he should receive this gift. I was in favor; Locke was opposed. That is fair: the choice became Barca’s alone, as is right. Barca accepted. He asked for a gift of wisdom, and Arueshalae granted it with a kiss on his cheek. He clearly accepted that kiss reluctantly. As for Arueshalae, there was no reluctance. However chaste a kiss on the cheek seems, in her eyes I could see deep wells of desire. I have no experience with romance, but I have to secretly admit … I was jealous.
Tonight I prayed. I prayed with a fervor that I have not felt since I was paralyzed and drowning in the poisoned waters of Storasta. I prayed aloud to Desna. I prayed in silence to the Black Butterfly. I prayed for Arueshalae’s redemption. I prayed for Galea be filled with the same miraculous forgiveness that Desna showed 70 years ago. I prayed for my companions, that they be safe on our journey ahead. I even prayed for Aunt Livia, that she find in her heart the good that I know is in my family, however buried by generations of greed. We all have difficult paths ahead, long and twisting journeys to safety and to forgiveness. May Desna bless us all in these travels.