Garion Alone, or “Wish you were here”

 

It began on the day of the battle on sub-level 7…or was it 5? You can’t remember clearly. You find it harder and harder to remember things as they days go by. You’ve taken the “Red Nail” column in the old, burnt out Great Hall and claimed it for your own use. The Dergen no longer drive an iron nail into it for every blackeye they kill…well, because the Dergen are dead. All of them. Except for the blackeyes, there seems to be quite a lot of them left down in the deep sub-levels.

 

Now you use their monument of victories to count the days. You think it’s pretty accurate, though some times you forget to drive a nail for days. Maybe it’s off by a month. No big deal, it’s not real. Not really.

 

If it’s fairly accurate, it’s been nearly two years since they abandoned you in the battle with the blackeyes. A little less than two years since Major Manfred ordered you to remain on location and look for the friends that left you to die and went Ambrose knows where.

 

It seems like so much has happened, but all in all it’s just been a soldier’s life. Hurry up and wait. For the first three months it was hurry up and find them. Then, wait…things are developing, stand by. Of course, when the blackeyes surged up from the deep levels and almost overran the colony, it was hurry up and kill them before they kill you. That was a happy time. Nothing to worry over other than the alertness of those that guarded you while you slept, and waking to another day of bloody battle. Not fair, really. Even blackeye Dergen are no match for a highly trained Ken warrior, much less a paladin of Ambrose. Kill them by the dozens, then wait. Wait to see if more are coming up. No? Then wait until the little cowards gather enough courage to follow you into the dark, deep places below the mountains and rout out the rest. Hurry and use your little soldiers before their limited courage fails them. Wait for others to grow bold enough to replace the casualties, cold bodies deep beneath the earth, left behind in the final flight up to the light, where the blackeyes will not go. Wait for more Dergen to shamble in from Caer Eldren, full of pride and naïve hope. Hurry and use them before they come to their senses and flee.

 

In the defeats, victories sprinkled about. The time you almost got her. Five heavy crossbow bolts in her scaly face, those eyes so dark closed in pain as she screamed and fled into the deep where no Dergen would follow. The eggs, smashing them even as they screamed. The time when you had a few Dergen with true warrior hearts, and what you found in sub-level 9. Watching the look of amazement as you ran your blade deep into Xamfir’s chest, watching the Eldren fiend’s confusion as old Brand jumped up on the table to bring his axe against its delicate neck. The flash of fire and smoke when it died.

 

After the victories, defeats. Never finding Xamfir’s corpse. The fiend haunting you to this day with his false visions and that maddening pipe music. The day after you thought you killed Xamfir, when the ceiling fell on you and you thought it was the end. Emerging from the deep to the smell of scorched Dergen flesh and ruin. Dead, all of them. Manfred in your ear, on the accursed magicked gem that you’ve grown to hate for the news it brings… Erekose riding south on a mad mission to slay the corrupted Ector, followed by reports of the North united and at war against the King, the Lord Protector with his champion, Count Sammael of Strathclyde ever at his side. The King slain on the steps of the throne with the Sword of the Morning. Flooding and crop failure in eastern Charn, and civil war in the west. The High Lords at war with each other while Charn crumbles around them. Enigma leaving the Council when none would join him in an attempt to strike down Gloriana. No news from Charn., or Enigma. The Shadow says that both the Red and the White are now in evil hands.

 

Caer Eldren is besieged by Prava, and grows weaker by the day...yet holds. But you are the prisoner. Abandoned on a fool’s mission, and prisoner of your own dreams. Are these visions of Yelaya real, or just the final sign that you are mad? Is it comforting to know you can still ask that question?

 

Are you mad?

 

Are you mad?

 

You feel the urge to take up your arms…the ones you brought mostly, but others, better ones that the Dergen yielded in life, and in their ruin…and go south, to fight, to make a stand. But Manfred says (in that infuriatingly paternal tone he is prone too) when he is not exhausted by another day at the walls of Caer Eldren…

 

“One soldier here is of no benefit, and will change nothing. One soldier there may change everything. Find them. Find them.”

 

Not enough. Disobey an order? Yes. Long past time to. Enough of living in deadly danger, half-starved, mad with the darkness, doing nothing. Time to leave. Long past time to.

 

But Yelaya is here. And that changes everything.

 

She comes you in your dreams.. But what does she say? You can never remember, crying in frustration at times in your inability to comprehend what she wishes you to do. But she cries too, and her tears bring you back from the darkness when no light is left.

 

You think it’s been two years since you’ve been in this place. You think Xamfir just might be alive, and somehow be behind the destruction of the Dergen and the strange golden shield that was left behind. You think there is something in the dark that creates the blackeyes, for the number you’ve killed far surpasses the number of Dergen that ever walked these halls.

 

You are sure that Yelaya watches over you, and blesses you. And when the Star of the Morning rises each dawn, you pray that you are right.