Aramis Entry 16
[March 15th, continued]
It’s done. We’re alive. We’ve won. It could have been worse.
We found Belak the Outcast beneath the Gulthias Tree. The Hucreles were there, too, sort of. The Tree has transformed Talgen into something more plant than man, and Sharwyn was inside the Tree, turning into a ‘supplicant’ like her brother.
As you might imagine, Azal was furious, and Belak refused to change Talgen back, so battle was joined. Such was my own anger that I slew Belak’s giant frog in one blow; we weathered an army of twig-blights, and I smote Belak with daunting light. The Outcast mentioned Azal’s mother as he died…
We subdued Talgen; it wasn’t easy for Azal, especially after Belak’s revelation. Was I wrong to encourage her feelings? How could I have anticipated what’s happened to him? I comforted her as best I could, asked Bhavik to bind Talgen, and went to check on Sharwyn.
I could feel the Tree’s evil in my mind, and my resolve to destroy it only grew stronger as we hacked at it until it gave Sharwyn back to us. She was miserable, but still human; I gave comfort to her, as well, after reviving her with a healing word. I swore to her that we’d do everything in our power to change Talgen back – and I meant Azal and myself; I hope that Bhavik understood – before Azal burned the Gulthias Tree with her alchemist’s fire.
We collected Belak’s treasures, and a set of journals we’d found, and made our way back to the surface, making the half-day’s walk back to the village in silence.
The horrors we experienced in the Citadel seemed to wash away in Madame’s gratitude. I repeated my vow to help Talgen to her, and she seemed satisfied. I doubt she would have been so calm if she’d seen his condition. I promised to bring everyone back for dinner, and Adell led me back downstairs.
Sharwyn caught my eye as I left, but I couldn’t divine what was behind her gaze… gratitude, yes, but something more besides. We saved her before the Tree could transform her, but she’s still very different from the little girl I used to know…
Returning to the shrine, I claimed a pair of enchanted gloves that had been Belak’s, and learned that the Tree’s most recent healing apple had been stolen by duergar. Erky believes they have have come from Khundrukar, near the mining village of Blasingdell. None of us have any other notion of how to help Talgen, so our path seems clear.
There’s so much on my mind – so much more to write – but it’s time to go to dinner at House Hucrele. Maybe after a meal and a decent rest I can put my thoughts in order…
[March 16th, 103 CY]
[The writing’s shaky for this portion of the entry, as if he wrote it while walking]
I may have made a huge mistake.
I stayed after dinner to talk to Sharwyn – mostly to tell her about Azal’s feelings for Talgen, in case that was a problem for her – and she told me that it’s her fault Celeine died, that she was the one who told Gerabaldi about the apple. If it wasn’t for her, Madame and I wouldn’t have been outbid.
She couldn’t have known what would happen; Fate wills what it will, and I told her so. After all, if I’d never become a servant of the Queen, I couldn’t have rescued her… but Sharwyn went on to say she loves me. That she’s always loved me, and that I never noticed, being so wrapped up in my Celeine.
And she’s right. Unless she’s making this all up – and I don’t believe that she is – I never had any idea. In fact, she was so quiet and shy around me, I thought she didn’t like me, as I’ve written before.
But she was neither quiet nor shy last night. She was emotional, and after everything she’s been through, I can’t say I blame her. I wanted to ease her pain, to bring her peace… and I suppose I did.
We had sex.
I can’t call it “making love,” not yet at least. I care about Sharwyn – I always have – but do I love her? Can I? It’s me that’s the problem here, not her – isn’t it? I can’t see myself in love with anyone – anyone who’s alive, that is.
Would I rather love a dead woman than a living one who’s crazy about me? She was so willing, after all. Sharwyn did things for me, to me, that Celeine never did, things I never even thought of…
This morning, she asked me not to tell Madame – and my plan was to ask for formal permission to court Sharwyn, just as I’d done for Celeine all those years ago. I don’t want to sneak around behind Madame’s back; she means too much to me… Is that what I want to do, or what I’m supposed to do? Am I fated to be with her? Or am I meant to be alone, as I’ve always believed?
It’s all too much, and I don’t have anyone I can tell. I’m going home, to tell my family about what’s happened, study my new rituals, and, with Fate’s blessing, find some peace of mind.
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