Another of us has fallen. Piotr is gone.
Returning to Sandpoint was a solemn occasion. We brought with us the hostages taken during the Stone Giant raid, each resurrected through Torag’s gift. And while there were some smiles and tears of joy upon their reunions, I know that each of those who returned will be changed by the experience. There will be guilt, and sorrow, and emptiness. They will wonder why they were allowed to return when so many others did not. They will pray, and seek answers, and never truly know.
I have given the resurrected what knowledge and comfort I have to give. It feels like nothing. I can not meet their eyes—they can not meet mine. We shake hands and we give one another our thanks, and both of us feel resentment towards the other. We do not mean to. We know it is wrong. But still it is there—that feeling of blame—that desire to lash out. They do not blame me for what has happened to Sandpoint…but they want to. I do not blame them for my Father’s death…but I want to.
And yet the horrors go on. Before we had even returned to Sandpoint, something evil was again stirring beneath it. We were told that a sinkhole had opened into the dungeon below the city streets, and that what was down there did not sleep quietly. Soldiers had gone below, but had not returned. We knew we must face it.
Together we descended into the dungeon, down into a wing we had not explored fully before. There we found cryptic writings on the walls and a strange, omnipresent mist. The Staff of Heaven and Earth pushed away the mist, but as it did it revealed sinspawn minions. As we engaged the beasts, a pit of crushing tentacles emerged beneath us. Piotr and Aramil were ensnared. The rest of us rushed forward.
The sinspawn were vicious opponents, but they were not invincible, and with luck and skill we were able to whittle away at their numbers. But as this was happening, the master of the beasts—an insane wizard who called himself ‘the Scribbler’—launched his own attack, aided by Lucrecia’s Quasit. His magic was powerful, but together we were able to surround him and press the attack. Victory seemed certain…
…and then the Scribbler turned his eye to Piotr. He said one word—a disintegration spell—and my friend crumbled to dust. There was nothing we could do but scream.
I had known Piotr for a short time as Dwarves reckon it…but I felt I knew this boy. For all his pessimism, his reluctance, his gloom…within him was a pure heart. Every step of his life had been a trial, every moment a test. He had done all he could, he had struggled with demons within that I only barely understood. He did not know if he could succeed…but he knew he had to fight.
In that final second, the struggle for Piotr’s soul was decided. I think he had always known that this was how it would end for him. I wish I could find some comfort in that.
The Scribbler is dead now, and Piotr’s father has taken what remained of his possessions. I would have liked to met the man…but something also tells me that it is better that I didn’t. I’m sure the darkness in his family was not Piotr’s alone.
The next step is to follow the Scribbler’s clues to the ‘Runeforge’ spoken of in his rhyme. I am sure we will find even greater evil there—evil upon evil like some horrible bubbling infection. Any who join me in this fight are unlikely to return. I need not tell them that.
But first, I will send Syphacia home to her people in the Mirenai forest. It would not be fair to ask her to go this final step without giving her the chance to see them again. She is not the girl I once knew—there is more pain than joy in her now. Perhaps a journey home will bring back some of what she has lost. Maybe she will not come back at all. I think it would be better for her if she did not. I need not tell her that.
I would send Razan home as well if I had the power. I would tell her to speak with her family, to tell them the truth of what we are facing. Of all of us, she is furthest from the ones she loves most. I have tried to be a friend to her. I know I have failed. She fights on because she can not turn from evil—it is not in her nature. She will square with it—one-on-one—until she breathes her last. I fear that day is coming soon. I need not tell her that.
At least Coram and Aramil will have some time at home before the next step must be taken. They know better than any of us the suffering delivered onto Sandpoint, and because of this they know better than any why we can not turn our eyes away and pretend that our part in this is finished. They will have some time to think, and reflect, and to say proper good-byes. They know that the courage that has made them heroes will also seal their fates. I need not tell them that.
And then there is me. I spend my time with the anvil, I spend my time with the dead. I study maps and history. I worry and I pray. The others have no use for my discontent. I am told I must ‘buck up’, I must compose myself, I must think of how others see me. They tell me that ‘Pride goes before a fall’. They need not tell me that.
I know it. I know what I must do. I am trying as hard as I can. And yet the road is ever steeper.
I will make a headstone for Piotr, even though there is nothing to bury. And then I will go to the Runeforge to find the Scribbler’s master. I know this is the path Torag has ordained for me, though I know not where it leads. I will do as I am commanded.