Journey to Fate’s Doorstep: the second gem

Dear Jonathan,

How many letters have I written to you like this? One for every week. Twelve letters. This one will be a little different, sweetheart.

As I write this, the world around me is cloudy, eerie, misty. Not that much different from how I have felt most of this time, but now it isn’t just me. Everyone I am with feels it too. They seem used to it, even more than I am, though perhaps for different reasons. We’re inside a holy place, they say, though it looks like army barracks to me. You would have loved to see this place, little soldier.

It was perhaps an hour ago that I was inside the greenhouse. Your father had told me it was best if I stayed there for the duration of the meeting he had called, but his new companions, marked with the black hand of Bane struck me as untrustworthy. Evil. I made myself invisible and watched as they performed a ritual that made my blood run cold. They struck among their own. A young man, black of hair and pale of skin, like from the southern coast. I cannot describe the effects properly, but everyone there transformed before my eyes into something I barely recognized. I am not sure what language was spoken during the ritual, but surely nothing of our faith would ever translate as “Draig tgo Bain-iise”. My own house turned inside out, corrupted and changed in ways that I cannot explain. Worse, it seemed to spread. Rapidly.

While your father and his men were in the throes of completion of whatever it was they wrought, I snuck among them and took the dagger. That probably seems strange to you, baby, but if I had had the time to teach you my craft you would know that much power of any ritual remains within the instrument with which it is performed. I ran, then. Back to the greenhouse. Back to you and to the place where I pray. Where your father used to pray with me. He must have stopped, some time in these last tear-stained weeks. I don’t recall that he did. I so recall feeling angry with him. Deserted by him. Feeling like he left you as well as me.

One of the creeds of our faith is “From death, life”. It seemed to me then, as I ran back towards your resting place, that what your father could do, so I could do. If Luther claimed a stranger’s life and damned my house, why could I not claim a life and bless my sanctuary? The fog withdrew, little man. For the first time in a long time, things were absolutely clear. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Not as much as birthing you did, and the goal was much the same.

Rather than facing death and judgment (and in stupid, desperate maternal hopes, a reunion with you, darling), I blinked and faced a quartet of strangers looking most fierce. A dwarf in heavy armor, extended a hand to me, called himself Mordrock, servant of Kelemvor, and demanded the dagger, now the carrier of power of two lifeblood rituals. A human man, bristling with knives called upon a power and healed me, but it seemed weakened. Holding them for men of Bane, I swore that they must leave; that their ritual had not been able to corrupt this sacred space. It shows the selfishness of our fears for in that moment, I knew for certain they would not do what cruel and evil men do to women they find after their victories. Though I am not fully sure of their morality as yet, I am glad not to have to write you of that particular fate, and find that it gives me faith in their intent. There were more attempts at healing, but it took a most powerful spell before they managed to restore me. You would be much awed by these men, Johnny. They wield awesome powers and their stories tell of fighting Tiamat and demon lords!

One of them, a bald-headed human called Royce, carries a blade that spreads real sunlight far and wide. I wonder if he knows of the significance of such weapons in our faith, but I consider it a beacon of hope even if he does not. He serves a god of war, which seems a strange calling for a dawnbringer’s weapon. They tell me that 26 years have passed since your father’s ritual. Since, supposedly, my death. Twenty six years, twelve weeks and three days since yours. I think that was yesterday.

To find such men here must mean that the evil Luther caused is greater than I could imagine. In the hopes of aiding them I retrieve my staff from the sanctuary, and explain to them my suspicions surrounding the nature of what has befallen our house. Based on my instincts as a mage, I ventured to think that killing the vessel for the ritual might be a way to defeat the curse. With those words I condemn your father, though to what fate I do not know. You can blame me later, my heart. We set out together, though one of the four barely speaks and travels far ahead. This half orc, Nong, wields an instrument of the vilest evil, though his companions ensure me that this is only out of the greatest need and that his heart is not as corrupted as the tool he uses. I will take them at their word, though his gaze makes my blood run cold.

The house itself is alien and strange now. Directions seem meaningless and the gallery of ancestors was entirely upside down. The man with the knives, who goes by Naismith, explained to me the various hazards that they had encountered in making their way to the garden. It makes no sense to me. Luther’s captain of the guard an undead menace to be killed over and over again. Strange vegetation that attempts to strangle and devour. It is madness. Then again, what isn’t. Maybe I am still dying. Dreaming. Maybe you will be here soon to find me and explain all this to me. Idle hope is another sign of madness.

After a perilous traverse of the hallways and stairways, we encounter a statue unknown to me. When approached it provides a perspective where it presents its sword as a walkway to be climbed. At the top, a skull is summoned from the statue’s throat. Naismith eventually places the gem from the ritual dagger and another gem into the eye sockets of the skull, much to the eerie amusement of his companion Nong.

This unlocks a door. We pass through, though the half orc stays behind. We enter a room where I see a small skeleton covered in decades worth of dust and the outline of a man curled protectively around it. My breath stalls. Has Luther taken your remains? Has he guarded them? What has grief done to him if this is how he looks for solace?

As I approach to try to determine if this is really you and really him, the room changes. It expands. An altar appears, as do wraith-like beings in each dimension of the room. Strange black armored beings too and then your father, my husband. Luther the bright-eyed. Luther the harpist. A gentle man. He looks aged. Both how I imagined him long after you would have given us a grandchild and also very much not. Yes his hair is long and free and his crown sits atop his head with gravity and grace but his eyes are wild and mad and his clothes are torn and perhaps unchanged since yesterday twenty-six years ago. This is the man I love. This is not the man I love. It is. It is not. It is, but not like this. And if it is… Should I not do what love demands and put an end to his suffering? He’s done enough of it all these years. I blink away the pointless tears. He could not let you lie in peace. I will do what he could not. He is so much stronger than I am, but this I will do. I will buy you a quiet grave, little one. Don’t worry. I am here now.

He points at me. Says the words I have avoided even thinking. He blames me for your death. Isn’t it always a mother’s fault? Should not a mother’s love always keep her child safe from harm and disease? If he is right, where did I err? This is a familiar maelstrom and on instinct I feel the lie behind what he just said. It is not my fault that you were not returned to him. No fair, good, trustworthy power would ever promise such a thing to a mourning father. I decide to take a chance. Conjure up an image of you, my hand protectively on your shoulder. I tell him that he is wrong. That you are safe with me. I have his interest for a moment, but it is not enough. In some way he manages to change the orientation of the room, upending us all. And with that, we fight.

Though fierce and of legendary repute, the campaigners are overmatched by the restless dead, and I am of little help. My spells seem not to do nearly as much damage as I expect them to, and we are held back by having to find ways to adjust to the revolving room while Luther’s lieutenants swarm us. The godsworn do their best to heal us over again as we take fell damage from the swords and spells of the undead occupiers, but in the end we are outclassed. I am not sure who falls after I do, but after a moment we awaken in this strange misty place that Royce says is a temple to Tempus, the god he serves. We are in the plane ethereal and can look out into the dining room of our home. We regroup with rest and meditation, then come together to plan.

Based on what we saw during the fight, the way to harm Luther is through the wraith-like beings that house in each aspect of the room. We have taken out some of them, but still more remain. I wonder if those aspects with the remaining wraiths relate somehow to how he twists the room about and around.

The heroes and I sit in council for a long time and try to come up with a plan. Lathander willing, it is enough.

I must go now, baby. We need to return to this fight and do better.

Don’t forget – we love you.

A thousand kisses,