I’ve taken my medicine, and while the taste was cloyingly sweet, the medicine was poisoned. I survived. Therefore, I am stronger in some way. If only I believed that.
I’ve not written in several days, so maybe I should back up a bit. We had recently returned from a successful rescue of my mentor. Though I will never admit it to the others, I was only dead weight on the journey. I wonder when they will realize that.
Anyway, when we got back, evidently the Black Shields had decided that we were too profitable. They were going to change our rents, and force us to buy from registered vendors. I went to a couple. Supercilious jerks. It’s been rather nice having a steady crowd, and gathering a following, and… well, until they kick me out, I really don’t want to leave the group. I feel like I’m supposed to sit still for a while, to learn, to perhaps even pray. Maybe this is my chrysalis, and when I’m reborn, I will be confident and centered, and beautiful. Maybe I’m dreaming again. Anyway, we found another spot in Uphill West. It’s bigger, but the rent is still affordable. We decided that we could do a boarding house on the upper floors, and the tavern/show on the bottom floor. Raganash wanted the basement, again. Well, he’s welcome to it, I guess. I even set up an agreement with a local bathhouse to partner with us, and provide me endless baths. Joy and glory. The final show at the Lowtown spot went well, for the most part, although the Black Shields look like they’re going to open a bar in place of our old spot. I hope another beastie crawls up from the basement and eats them. It would serve them right.
Itu took me out, in the midst of this flurry, and I have to admit here, that I was truly falling in love with the man. The place he took me to was so upscale, we wined and dined and talked about my journey to rescue my teacher. He was especially interested in possibly dissecting one of the orcs. It didn’t really seem feasible to bring the body up there, and they were likely rank. I tried to leave out the connection between Fiona and the Cynthians coming, leaving it as a chance encounter. I may have been in love, but I also cared for my friends, and Fiona really didn’t like Itu. I wasn’t going to betray her that way. I also didn’t tell him about my dreams though, or about how the gods seem to be impinging on my life. I definitely didn’t tell him about the lightning that streams from my fingers. I wanted the man to look at me with adoration, not fear. He even walked me home, the gentleman! And then the veneer slipped, and beneath it, was something feral and cold, staring out of eyes that had crinkled at me in laughter.
We were being held up by two thugs. They wanted our coins. I told the first one to leave us alone, and he did pause, but the second sprung out and put a knife to my throat. Itu looked like he was going to hand over his money, and I was terribly upset. How would he think of me if I caused him to lose so much money? I tried to wriggle out of the hold, but the man thrust the knife in further, drawing blood and growled at me to stay still.
Itu, like some exotic dancer twisted, and ran a tiny scalpel across the first man’s throat. His eyes were clear and hard, as the man fell back gurgling. Itu then told the man holding me to either let me go or die. After a brief pause and I was still captive, he threw the knife at me, I thought, to hit me. I could feel the movement of air and then the arms around me loosened. I fell to the ground, paralyzed by the thought of death, and how close I had come. I felt as if I was waking from a daze, and beneath the benign mask, Itu was a monster. His mask snapped back into place so quickly, and once again he was solicitous of my welfare. But, I KNEW now.
I knew and I couldn’t trust myself with the information. I didn’t go to anyone, and I continued to see Itu, though I cut my hours back significantly due to our recent move. Or at least that’s what I told him. I didn’t see the crack again, and I was too afraid to tell the others. Thoughts of their ridicule, their “I told you so” ran through my mind. Besides, maybe I’d just imagined it. I did watch, during my time with Itu, for the mask to slip again. And, strangely, I no longer felt beguiled by him. The love? It never existed. But, I’m a good actor, and, out of fear, I continued the masquerade.
I suppose because I was keeping secrets, secrets were kept from me. Dakarus was chasing the Slayer of Women. He even caught sight of him one night, and went out with Lierin another night to follow the killer. I kept up with the motions of life, without engaging in them.
When Lierin told us that Dakarus had not come home from their foray, and that he had absconded with Lierin’s telescope, I felt a cold shiver run up my back. Dakarus was dead, he had to be, crawling alone through a sewer chasing after a cold hearted killer. I may not LIKE Dakarus, but he’s useful, so I pretend. The others gathered to go on a rescue mission, and I wished them well, and began making a list of things I would need to gather to say the correct prayers over his body.
Soon after the party left, Fiona came running back, for her bow. Evidently, Dakarus wasn’t dead. He was talking to her, either that, or Cynthia was sounding really weird. And he was in Lowtown. I decided to come along, evidently he couldn’t get out, and I might come in useful to stitch up his scrapes. Maybe his leg was broken or something, and that was why he hadn’t come back. They wouldn’t believe that they might need me, but I knew they might. Then Dakarus revealed something that somewhere deep inside I had been dreading. Itu was the Slayer of Women.
I distracted Itu while Lierin and Raganash snuck into the clinic’s basement to free Dakarus. Fiona watched over me, in case I became beguiled again. Itu was, again charming, and I had to be very careful not to let slip the taste that the idea left in my mouth. Eventually, he told me he had plans and ushered me out of the clinic. At the time, I didn’t know if they had freed Dakarus, or if ALL of my friends were now trapped below. But once we got outside, I saw the men. I didn’t stop to talk to them, moving beyond the view from the windows, and around the corner. It wouldn’t do the scare the quarry. Evidently Lierin was running for help from Colvin. I wanted to run home to Uphill West, and sob into my pillows, but I had to stay close, and see the ending.
Oh, diary, the things he had in his basement! How could such a man, so smart, so skilled be so souless. That room chased away all my doubt that the man was indeed a monster, wearing the veneer of civilization. I wondered how long it was going to be until I was a victim, or Lierin, or Fiona… There was no chance of that. His end was very grisly, very public, and very… proper.
I’m trying to deal with this, this betrayal. I saw the priest again, and he believes that everyone is special, just because of who they are. I don’t understand. People are valuable for what they can do for someone else. When they are no longer valuable, you leave them behind. The gods right now find me valuable. They will stay with me as long as I am useful to them. And when they leave me behind, I’ll have to rely on what I have learned, and what I can continue to pretend. I don’t understand the priest, but he’s giving me homework to study. I’m not sure what he expects. I suppose that will become apparent as time goes on, just like Itu. Let’s hope that this pill is not so bitter.
Valdorian Age - Rising Power on the Frontier