Forgive these hands, O Providence, which have struck in anger. Forgive these eyes, clouded by folly and doubt. Forgive this mind, fogged with hubris and self-righteousness. Forgive this servant, O Providence, O Merciful Force, O Righteous Power, and see fit to deliver him a chance to redeem himself. Amen and Amen.
It was past compline when we went to sleep, and when we awoke, the madness began. God and Saint pardon me if this account is spare on detail and form, for I can hardly remember all of what I saw and heard in that realm. It shifts and fades, like mist before a summer window…
It didn’t take us long, Martin and I, to figure out that we were dreaming. The other one there, the Swordmaiden, I had laid eyes on once before. Coincidence is the joke of Providence. She served near Titan’s Pass, at a monastery that I had once visited to take advantage of the library there. Ten years ago? More?
Anyway, we wandered for a time in the dream realm, the Draumur Somniatis. The Scholars of the Faith teach us that reality is like the Pyramid of the Divine; above and removed from it is Providence, shining and all seeing in glory. Our lives that we live are like the stones, individually distinct but part of a broader plan. Where the True Dream fits in is a matter of considerable theological and ontological debate, but the nearest analogy would be the mortar of the pyramid; it is what joins us together into the grand design of Being.
But enough of that. We journeyed to Fort Fallcrest, saw war and devastation such as I have not seen in years. Thousands of men, women, and children slaughtered, trying to get in to the Fort. Trying to get in from the South! A southern Kingdom, teeming with women and men.
There was nothing left from us there, so we journeyed back to the south, where we met a lost boy. He asked us to take him home, and fool (accursed fool!) that I am, I agreed without suspicion or investigation. Had I only asked the Divine then and there, had I only paused…
Regrets. O, God, my regrets weigh on me like chains.
From the creature (boy I shall not call it) I learned much. I learned of a King long dead, who made his capital on a southern shore. I learned of ships that required great quantities of iron ore for a cause I cannot know. I learned of an age when the farthest north of Ordea was the Titan’s Pass. I learned that there were marquesses and lords in this wilderness, once.
We came to his (its) father’s keep, and there this strange dream became a nightmare. The creature fled from us, laughing, cackling, and then we were ambushed. In a hall of mirrors, we were confronted by horrors; like demons from an illumination they were, all goat-heads and stinging tails, they ran backwards and slobbered mad spittle. They slipped between cracks in the air, and launched themselves upon us.
We fought, Martin and Merritt and I, we poor mortals in a realm of demons, and through the Grace of God we lived. But not unscathed. Martin and Merritt were infected with a strange poison that… disrupts them. ‘Blinks’ them in and out of reality, the way a leaf dances in the air and becomes invisible when it turns on its edge. The way flames vanish at the tip of a candle.
And we could have had answers, when we caught the small boy, but I was weak. Martin tells me I recognized the demon for what it was, caught it by the throat, roared at it to show its true form. Then, he says, I lowered my knife and stepped in front of it, defending the ‘helpless child’ from my companions who I thought meant to do it harm!
I remember very little of this, but Martin has never lied to me. Cursed at, belittled, blasphemed, vomited on, insulted, ignored, all of these, yes, but never lied.
The poison did not pass when we awoke. Martin is cursed still with this strange sickness, and no art of mine can heal him of it.
This is my fault. My error, brought on by my hubris and arrogant faith in my own capabilities.
But I swear that I will find a way. I will venture back to that cursed place, and I swear that I will not be deceived again. I shall see with the clarity of the Eye in the Pyramid, I shall know with the certainty of the Uncreated God. And when I meet the creature again, let it fear me, for mine shall be the righteous fury of the Saint of the Burgundy Cross. I am Temple van Bommel, and by Their Grace I will have justice.