Diary, oh, Diary,
It should not come as a surprise that I’ve made a study of fear. Figuring out what scares demons and their worshippers turned out to be far simpler than I expected – If they’re not at the top of the fighting hill, they’re terrified of those who are and those who might step on them to get there. If they are at the top of the hill, they’re far less scared, but the nature of the Abyss means no position is any more secure than your capacity and willingness to do terrible things to secure it. Everyone’s frightened all of the time, which is one of the major sources of chaos.
There’s a lot of fear in Ursundova, but it’s the sort of worry that good people ascribe to themselves – mostly worry about other people. The risk in such fear is that any fear is a downhill slope into the valley of hate. It’s easy – let me tell you, so damn easy – to go from seeing something as a hazard to seeing it as something to be destroyed. Periodically, something is so large that we can keep in mind that it’s not malevolent, it just is. In the case of demons, malevolence is their constant state, so that might be a bad example, but it’s also a lesson for me – some things cannot be bargained or reasoned with, they can only be slain, because they will never be anything other than an open and festering wound, pouring in poison.
I am grateful that the council has, at least in large part, embraced hope over fear as a contingency plan. I honestly believe that restoring Nyrissa’s love could work, but I cannot, of course, know such a thing for certain. I shall have to take back at least six unpleasant thoughts I’ve had about our council – well, except for Ulgar, who remains a charmingly racist boor.
And then there’s Nyrissa, who apparently hopes to use our fears against us. This Nightmare Rook of hers was clever, and I, brilliant fool that I am, led us straight into potential disaster. I had hoped that physically crossing over to the Dimension of Dreams might give us some more precise control over the morphic nature of that realm, but that’s what comes from letting book-learning collide with practical experience, as the damn bird trapped us all in our own fears.
Diary, I can only now describe how it felt. For a full year after I was raised from the dead, I could barely trance with blankets on, as the fear of being buried while still alive played out a lively series of theatrical adventures in my head. Elves, of course, don’t go in for those ridiculous dead-body boxes that humans use, so my blankets and pillows turned to loam every night. To find myself back in that earthen tomb nearly made my heart seize and what I desperately wanted to do was cry and shout.
But, as I said, I know fear. Amidst my rising panic, a small voice seemed to shout at me to remember how I got to where I was. The symbols and the chant of the ritual to breach the veil of dreams was still echoing in my ears and my mind’s eye, and I seized upon that like a drowning fool. A memory of what never happened – of that enormous corvid looming as dirt poured down on my paralyzed body – tried to fill in the gaps in the narrative. I’d caught the overgrown bastard in his lie. I’d love to say that I rose up in righteous anger, or some heroic desire to thwart evil, but the truth? I was offended. I’ve spent decades perfecting the ability to study a target, learn its weaknesses, and exploit them to my benefit, and this overstuffed percher thought it could just reach into my brain, yank out my fears, and present them, hoping I’d just play along?
Unfortunately for our feathered friend, I know all too well what scares the manipulator – when they’re caught out. I reached out through the space that was no space at all and let my tormentor know that I knew his chains were phantoms and his implements so much gossamer. Confronted with the truth, it fled.
Only to deposit me in a truly frightening situation, where the consequences of my exuberance were put on display – Jacek nowhere to be found, Ulgar rendered into an invalid, and no way to return to the Dimension of Dreams to hand. I hope it’s a sign that I’m growing up a little that I almost immediately requested help. Magister Kifu was able to retrieve His Majesty, and I was able to undo the damage done to Ulgar. The ebon feathers that clung to several of us remained as the only evidence that anything at all had occurred, but they were sufficient to let us know that we had won again.
It is a testament to a group of people I rather constantly critique that they have been assailed in a variety of different ways and on different battlefields, yet still manage to come out victorious. I cannot help but cynically believe that it will get worse before it gets better. That being said, my confidence…my hope?…in us grows stronger with each triumph.