It’s hard for me to gather my thoughts right now. Things have changed so much since I last put to ink to paper that I feel hardly the same person. Gideon and Daargan are dead. Vordekai’s power has been left unchecked. We charged into the belly of the beast and were routed in every sense of the word. My friends fell like puppets with their strings cut. I ran for my life through the darkness. I would call myself a coward if only there had been some other alternative.
This is not the first time I’ve lost friends, but it is the first time I’ve felt defeated. Down in those depths, I was the one who called the retreat, I was the one who left my friends broken on the floor. I have told myself a thousand times that we had no alternative but to flee, that had we not the entire party would have been lost. But now, without victory, we have no alternative but to return to face Vordekai and his minions again. How am I supposed to accompany other friends to go to the same grim fate? Surely we were careless in our first assault…we were brash and foolhardy…and it cost us dearly. But will it make a difference to show caution this time? Against an evil such as this, is there any hope but to die as bravely as Gideon and Daargan?
Don’t mistake my misgivings for doubt of purpose. I know that we must return to Vordekai’s lair, we are the only hope Ursundova has. Sure, I’ve played out scenarios in my head where we ally with the kingdoms of Brevoy for a combined assault, or where we might rally the good people of the River Kingdoms to come to our aid. I’ve imagined gods and dragons interceding on our part, knowing that our cause is a righteous stand against evil. But I know that all of these are fantasies. In a boy’s mind good and evil are matched foes in a world-spanning war. But a man knows that good and evil don’t fight grand battles, they fight daily skirmishes, with each side bringing only who they have to fight. In the end, all we will have to turn away this evil are a few brave souls. In this, Ursundova must stand alone.
Now we plan our next attack and I try to show strength. As the Champion of Ursundova I must lead the next assault. It is not only what my title demands, it is my responsibility to our Kingdom and the good people who live here. But even without these commitments, I owe this fight to Gideon and Daargan. Until Vordekai is destroyed, their souls will not know peace. If I did not go back, neither would mine.
We have new allies to share in this task. Gaeren and Tangsen—mismatched adventurers—have been dispatched by my sister to retrieve Gideon’s body. I should welcome their aid…but I see too much of myself in Gaeren. He is hungry for adventure and excitement, ready to best a worthy foe and win the day. I remember those days, before Gideon’s fall and the massacre beneath Shrikewatch’s ruins. I fear that after he sees the horrors of Vordekai’s tomb the person Gaeren is now will be lost forever. Or perhaps, I fear that he won’t be. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe my heart is too fragile for the burden it carries.
My heart is burdened further my Nina’s absence—for I have not seen her since I’ve returned. I’ve been told that Nina is on some errand for the fey in the River Kingdoms and that she will return by Founder’s Day. And though my heart yearns for her, I don’t know how I will face her. How am I to tell her that I march back to the fight? How am I to tell her that I may not return? She is wiser than I am in so many ways, perhaps she’ll understand where I do not. I only hope that she can see what I must do. I only hope for the chance to hold her again.
When I feel weak I whisper prayers to Iomedae. I do not know if the goddess of valor can hear me, but readings from her Acts have given me unexpected strength. After bungling my introduction to Sir Lazarou, I’ve had to teach myself as best I can, and I struggle sometimes to apply her example to my own circumstances. To bring me closer to Iomedae I’ve gone back to practicing with the sword and have adopted the colors of Ursundova as my own. Iomedae teaches that any man with a righteous heart can become a hero. I may have been born an unwanted son and raised as an outcast, but I will die the Champion of Ursundova.
Things are changing for me. I feel I am no longer the man I once was…but neither am I yet the man I want to be. Strangely, this thought gives me great hope…and hope is something I desperately need right now.