I lean against the thick ancient tree. The shadow, a mere blossom in the rearming heat. A soft salty breeze filter in from the ocean around me, a whisper of sullen waves crash against the rock behind me as seagulls shrieks echo against the steep smooth lime sailing up high and above on the current ramming the island and pouring into the hollowed out caves far below.
I am tired – having saved the Island form the menace of a Mindflayer controlling a white dragon. Cleared out a storage of cultists trying to destroy a power stone keeping the village warm, found a scroll, stopped them from awakening the dead in a crypt and finally confronted a traitor in the underground cellar and ancient cave underneath the tavern.
After that was done I wandered into the interior of the island to find an ally, deep freeze an ancient beast, find the mayors daughter and clear out the threat of the Mindflayer once and for all.
Exhausting. I lean against the bark, close my eyes as the rustle of leaf blend with the whisper of the old ones in my mind. The promise of power – the commands of their will and purpose. I seek knowledge and gave away my free will for the flow of eldricht might that fills my essence.
I’m learning how to tune out some of the loudest voices. When I was reborn the cacophony was deafening. A bowl of insanity as the Old ones poured into my mind and whose dark tendrils and will clawed at my sanity.
Now – like a newborn trying to filter the advent of the morning light through the shade of a hand covering my sight, I see reality. I try to drag myself into it. To exert some will of my own before I succumb to theirs.
They tell me that freeing the White Dragon was all in their plans. That the path I stake out serves their needs.
This is so different from the shadows of my past – the fractious remnant of my previous life. In that one my moral inclination was towards law and good – in this I’m entirely neutral to the ant like civilization around me.
Death – if it furthers my (or their) goals is entirely ambivalent. Life, only matters if it’s a stepping stone. It’s not evil, or lack of good. Evil is as much a matter of explicit will, an idea of shape through chaos, as good is to preserve the state of that shape.
For me there is only their will, and my goals. I know I can’t win in the end. But I try; because there’s a thirst clawing inside me. Be it knowledge, power, ‘things’ or whatever seem to drive me. But I want it and as I sit here and rest against an ancient tree that has seen countless of lives repeat its cycles in in place, I know I will not find it here. But beyond the stretch of briny sea in Stormreach.
Stoooooormreach – the whisper in my mind calls out. A deep guttural noise – more a growl than a utterance. This old one – more ancient then the rest pokes my mind. Makes me stand up. I feel like a puppet on a string when I reach for my pack and start stumbling towards the harbor. Then I steel myself, Nails dig into the meat in my palms, I dry heave. Sweat pearl on my forehead as I slow down to a stand still. The shriek of voices rise to a choir in my mind.
I am not your meat puppet, I tell them, not sure if I’m strong enough to stake out enough ground to stand on. At the apex of the struggle, when I’m about to break and I feel a trickle of hot, metallic blood trickle from my nostril down over my lips the war in my mind suddenly ends and the whispers die out.
I feel dizzy and weak. My limbs tremble as I steady myself against a rock rounded by eons of exposure to the elements. My hand slips against the dry moss and the brown crust breaks and turn into dirt smelling vapors.
Slowly my strength comes back and I can hear the villagers go on and about as if nothing ever happened. The clangs and songs from inside the tavern and the haggling of some loud adventures calling shenanigans on some of the pricing of local goods.
You may Walk your own path for now the deep voice comes back. A tingle run up my spine. Of fear. Of trepidation. There was menace and anger in that voice. I had defied it and won for now. But I would never be my own again.