Last Stand of the 5th Crusade

Riva: The Dance

16th of Rova, Raliscrad


The Dance is a framework, rich and elegant.
Like the universe itself one must follow its laws
Lest the construct collapse, for its order is delicate.
So know your place in the greater cause,
Be in perfect step, with the music resonant,
For to break from its rhythm is to risk great loss.
Misaligned, this pattern might be hypnotic,
An o’er stifling order that waxes despotic.

I can still feel a tingling sensation on my chest where Jerribeth placed her hand, just above my heart.

I don’t know what will come of me as a result of this wish, seemingly given away for almost nothing. I’m no fool. I know who Jerribeth is, and I watched her lie — almost certainly lie — so flawlessly that I could not sense even the slightest trace of falsehood. So her assurances that this truly miraculous wish comes without consequence seems deeply unlikely.

Still, she is clearly a very proud creature, and in that there are some hints at truths. When I first heard her honey-sweet voice in my mind, I said that I would not bother hiding my motives, for she could see my thoughts. To that she almost seemed indignant, quickly claiming that she would not stoop to such a thing. This may be true. More interestingly, when I asked about conditions attached to the wish, she said with obvious disdain that she would do nothing so crude as to track us or watch over us “like Minagho’s succubi.” Again, that flare of pride, and with it a hint of truth, I think.

I know that this may destroy me. I am at peace with that possibility. I’m glad Ivan was not there to stop me.

If it brings Cormonoth Wulmor back to the side of the Crusaders, it will have been worth it. He is far stronger than I am, certainly, and it would be such a symbolically powerful victory. If he is redeemed, it would light a path for all the corrupted in this city.

And to see the power of that wish, cast across time itself! Unweaving the work of the fates and spinning its skein into an entirely new pattern — I have no words to describe how humbling it was to witness such magic. (My, I sound like Kyrk.) Perhaps it was all a grand illusion, but I do not think that is so. Did it actually bring his wife and child back from death? If it’s true, and they really are his family and not some twisted likenesses? A part of me feels that too would make it worth it, to have undone such a cruel injustice of the gods.

I hope. I truly hope that it is so. I hope — I pray, Desna if you are listening, I pray! — that any curse from this does not fall on that poor man or his family. He has suffered enough. Please let him return to the path of good, the path he followed before that loss. Whatever cruel tricks that demon wishes to play — please, let them fall on me.

I wonder how long my time even is. I wrote yesterday that I can feel something is coming, and I did not mean that demon.

I was exhausted last night and fell asleep too early. Once again I found myself flying on ink-black wings over those featureless grey hills rolling off into the horizon. The sky was cloudless and starry, like it always is. I looked down, up, around me, panicking, looking anywhere but ahead, because I knew that when I looked forward I would see that I was again flying straight toward that bright blue star and then the writing would begin, each glyph branded into my my mind, like the thousand times before. But this time I felt a burst of warmth, the last thing I associate with that dreamplace. Startled, I looked forward. And there was a huge butterfly, some hundred feet in front of me, its violet wings dotted with as many stars as the night itself. It hovered there, directly ahead yet never getting closer, its wings flapping slowly and calmly, its body blocking the light from that star. I studied it, looking in wonder at the intricate patterns of its diaphanous wings, and then I realized: it was starting to fade away. A hint of that piercing blue pinpoint of light started to show from behind it, and I could hear those whispering voices emerging from the darkness.

And then I jerked awake, knowing that it was midnight. I pulled my blankets around me, shivering. A cold wind was picking up, blowing down from the Frostmere, the first hint of the next day’s fierce windstorm. That old routine of waking at midnight to meditate … it saved me from a symbol dream. This time, at least. Since Kenabres I’ve been feeling the presence that comes from the north circling me, drawing ever closer. It is coming for me again, and it is only a matter of time.

During my meditation I drew The Dance, inverted. That’s the second time I’ve drawn this card since leaving home. The first was immediately before the fall of Kenabres, when The Dance fell in the reading’s future-evil position, a perfect opposition, foretelling the collapse of that city’s order.

This time was a personal drawing, and I fear it means the collapse of the order in myself. For so long I’ve tried to control the forces inside me with meditation, trying to maintain a mental order and harmony. Katsuyama-san, thank you. Teaching me these methods saved my life. I will keep trying, but I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. Last night that order saved me from a symbol dream and fates know what changes it would work. I was lucky. Without your guidance I’m really struggling to find a way of dealing with the dreams, the spirits, and now these demons and perhaps even Desna herself. And what if I take some demon’s curse upon myself? If it saves another, I am willing to gamble what remains of me.

Prayer seems so awkward. My thoughts invade, questioning, mocking my efforts. Galea isn’t here to help; Falrin was with me today. I’ve sometimes heard him muttering prayers to Torag in his guttural dwarven tongue, not that that’s much of a help. He hasn’t spoken to me since Jerribeth’s wish. I’m not sure he’s even here anymore.

But I will keep trying that too.

Desna, please let Cormonoth Wulmor and his family be truly saved from evil. Please.



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