((OOC: I am placing this RTQ report here while the forums are down. I will try to summarize it and put it in the chronology of 439 as soon as possible.))
It always saddened Jedd to see the people who chose life in the gray world over life in color. Saddened, but not disturbed. He couldn't imagine how it was possible, but he understood that there were just some people in the world who found a better life in death.
So it didn't bother Jedd too much when he saw the ghost of Neblin arrive at the Mirith bank in the very early hours of the 159th day of the Lucky Moon, Year 439. After all, this particular spirit had been wandering the city for some days, now. Apparently, the king's pardon of Sam had extended to Neblin as well. As far as Jedd could tell, Neblin's state of mind had progressed as low as it could go. There were words whispered in the dark, rumors that he had brought his death upon himself.
Jedd might never find out for himself, though, unless he took up the life of a cleric. Imagining what a living person might say to him in this occasion, Jedd tried to have an admittedly one-sided conversation with the ghost. The upshot was that a frightened Bunny took off for the east gate, likely to return home and feast on eggs until her supplies run out and she returns once more.
Jedd's hopes at paranormal communication were considerably increased when the Brigobaen cleric Adla Thera walked up with an amiable "Hello!"
The fighter greeted her with a bow. Almost instantly, she cried out upon seeing Neblin. "Oh oh, my dear goddess! A fallen soul!"
Jedd expected the reaction and set about cooking a meal. "He has been like that for quite some time," he said quietly while preparing the kindling.
"What happened? Can a child of the goddess lend you a hand?" The cleric drew closer to Neblin. What followed was no doubt an interesting dialogue, of which Jedd could only hear half.
"Oh my, oh my." She continued, pausing to decipher the ghostly whispers of Neblin. "Have you been playing with the dark?" She frowned. "You forgot your name?"
"What I would give to understand him," Jedd muttered audibly.
Adla paused for a brief moment to explain. "He is speaking of the void."
How odd. Adla then picked up on the name of her subject and continued her interrogation. "Neblin. Death is no life for a child of Elara. The goddess weeps for the fallen. Why have you not sought a temple? My brothers and sisters would have not denied a hand." She stopped to listen. The drone of Neblin's wails dragged on for a minute. Adla looked more concerned by the second. "Who is she?"
"I have heard rumors.." Jedd interrupted, seeing that it was a fitting thing to add, "…he entered the gray world on his own will."
She gasped. "Did you bring this upon yourself, child?"
"I don't know if they are true, I must add," Jedd said, albeit more quietly.
It would seem that Neblin had concurred. "What have you done?" Adla shook her head. "Alas, you are nothing in death but a lost soul. Elara cries! I can hear her suffering!"
"His ventures in the world of color have not been the most productive, either.." Jedd didn't know why Neblin had chosen death, but it was probably for the better.
Then, a new thought came to Jedd. "Yet the king has given him another chance as well." If the King could forgive Neblin…
Then, a figure walking by quickly stopped upon encountering such a strange sight at the bank. Beleth. "Hmm what have we here?"
"A fallen soul of Elara."
"Hmph, can't you resurrect him?"
Adla turned back to the ghost. "When did you become Neblin? How old were you?"
Realizing the Royal Wizard was looking rather impatient, Jedd answered his question. "It would appear that he doesn't desire resurrection..I think."
The three living humans present stood there, focusing on the ghost. Could Beleth understand him, too? Jedd was afraid to ask.
"Sir Beleth," Adla turned back around. "You, more than anyone else, would know that he needs a new body."
"Speak not of my misfortunes," he snapped.
"I thought your knowledge could help us rescuing this child," Adla said softly.
"Tell me why this 'fallen soul' hasn't already got a body." Beleth pointed towards the temple.
Adla sighed. "He brought it upon himself."
Searching his mind to find something useful to add, Jedd suddenly remembered an earlier part of the conversation. "Maybe whatever he was saying about the void is of some significance?"
"What contact did he have with the void?" Beleth began pacing back and forth.
"I know not." Jedd looked to Adla. "This cleric here mentioned that he was speaking about it. The language of the gray world is not known to me."
Adla, meanwhile, had refocused on Neblin. "Who killed you?"
Hadn't that been established already?
As the ghost revealed his secrets, Beleth stopped moving and looked Neblin up and down. "Hmph, some mind-afflictions persist even in death."
"Sometimes that is a blessing." The ever-optimistic Adla smiled. "Have you met this man while he lived, Sir?"
"I think I saw him once or twice," Beleth said. "The fellow who was scared of gapers is it?"
"The same." Jedd cut in. "He thought me a gaper on more than one occasion. I think it had something to do with pixie dust.."
"You will excuse me, I have more important business to attend to." And with that, the Royal Mage walked off.
Before he got far, Adla stopped him. "Sir! You cannot leave a man in this state!"
"Hmph." He didn't look happy to be bothered.
"Mirith is the city of Elara," Adla went on. "You have the tools! You have the charms, the books…"
He gave in. "I shall see if Nafets is available, he will be asleep I expect."
"It is almost morning. He will be awake for the prayer at 5. The morning prayer is the more important."
Beleth nodded. "I have wasted enough time already. Farewell, cleric, farewell."
Once the wizard was gone, Jedd expressed his doubts. "What good can anyone do for a ghost who does not wish to live?"
"Do you not wish to live?" Adla said to the ghost.
"At least, it would appear so."
Neblin spoke, and Adla relayed it to Jedd. "He says he does not wish to live as a demon, but wishes to live as a man."
Jedd said nothing, for he was lost in thought. The Neblin he knew wouldn't have said that. "Perhaps Beleth was wrong…Maybe he is more sane now than he was alive."
Adla didn't have a chance to respond, as Father Nafets strolled yawning into the bank. Formal greetings were exchanged, and then the Royal Cleric addressed Neblin. "Ah the soul Beleth spoke of."
The next thing Jedd felt was a great wave of healing energy - Nafets was attempting resurrection. Nothing became of it.
"Hmm." Nafets peered into his bag, inspecting his supply of ginseng. "This stuff looks alright."
"His soul is damaged," Adla explained. "His body is lost. I believe he has a mental affliction."
Nafets continued to cast spells on Neblin, to no avail.
"Perhaps," Jedd suggested, "he must first be cured of his demons before he can be brought to life?" It was a most interesting idea. Was it even possible? "In life he was well known to be paranoid, believing everyone was a gaper out to get him."
"What was his profession?"
Jedd shrugged. "Just a rogue, as far as I know."
"A rogue…" Adla echoed.
"I need that book…." Nafets muttered. "Or maybe…"
That sounded familiar to Jedd. "A book? Might this be a book of healing?"
"I have read of such objects." Jedd thought to the magical books he had read of. Which would be the most appropriate for this situation?
"But first," Nafets said, "by Elara's grace, we must know his real name."
"Erich…" Adla revealed. "Erich something."
Nafets learned the real name from the ghost. "Erich Kaestner?"
"Will you live by your former name again?" Adla asked the ghost.
Jedd couldn't believe it. In the meantime, he had remembered the book he sought. "Father…if this case is one of mental illness, might the Book and Amulet of Sky be of use?"
"Indeed Sir Jedd." He nodded. "Though the problem may be simpler. This soul clearly remembers his former self. It's not a fundamental corruption of his being, more… an overlay. As if his mind were not so much diseased as hidden, beneath a madness."
Jedd's eyes were widening. "In other words, he was living a lie?"
"No, not a lie. Or at least, he really believed his delusions. Perhaps his prolonged spell as a ghost has caused this affliction to depart." Nafets sank deep into thought.
"Very intriguing…" Jedd was awestruck. "Death washes away all masks."
"That it does." Adla, who had been conversing with Neblin, or Erich Kaestner rather, agreed.
A minute later, Nafets spoke up again. "Or perhaps some other spirit filled the void in his mind."
"Which begs the question how the void got there in the first place." Jedd clouded up.
Daylight was fast approaching, and the clerics decided to act. "Shall we essay the spell, sister Thera?"
"Yes, father, with Elara's blessings."
In silence, Jedd watched as the duo cast a plethora of spells in rapid succession. The very minute that the sun broke over the horizon, he was returned to life. Only, the mask of Neblin had been discarded - Erich Kaestner was reawakened.
The new man blinked. "The wind…"
The clerics continued to busy themselves with their spells, strengthening him.
He touched his shoulder. "My right arm is real again."
"Elara has ceased crying." Adla smiled, her strength visibly drained.
"Well that went about as well as we could have hoped for!" Nafets was breathing heavily.
Erich stumbled up the bank steps. Jedd finally managed to speak. "Neblin…has departed..?"
"Only time will tell." Adla beheld the figure of Erich leaning against a pillar. "We can hope, however."
"Here, my child." Nafets passed a blue robe to Erich. "Cast aside the grey world."
Erich blinked again. "I suppose it is time. The eyes…they are not upon me."
Jedd noticed. "The light must be blinding after so long in the dark."
"It will hurt his eyes for a while." Adla watched him adjust. "But it is a light of joy. A light of Elara. He is a blessed soul with a life of light."
"May the eyes of Elara be upon you," Nafets said, as if reciting a catechism. "May her wisdom guide your thoughts."
"And upon you as well, friend." Erich returned. He was clearly not the same person. "My magic…" he gazed down at his hands. "What would happen if I used it again?"
Nafets shuddered. "Perhaps a worse fate than that which already befell you."
"Hmm…" Erich almost looked disappointed. "Yes. I suppose so. It would be foolish of me to start up again. As a ghost and as Neblin, I was not able to cast it."
Clearly this was no ordinary magic.
Adla then approached Jedd. "Thank you for helping."
"Oh, I was merely watching," Jedd assured her.
"Your kind spirit pleased Elara."
Jedd's lips curled upwards slightly. "I suppose it's something."
As Jedd and Adla were talking, Nafets spoke with Erich although everyone present could hear. Gesturing to Jedd, Nafets said, "He is a stout fighting man, and not given to flights of fancy. Honest toil and the avoidance of malign spell craft will do you good, Erich."
Erich thought for a while. "Yes. I suppose so."
"See the simple fighter - he cares not for power," Nafets continued. "Strong will and a stout heart are all he needs. As long as he has a good cleric," he finished with a wink that made Jedd chuckle.
"Yes." Erich's face was blank. "I suppose that is one way to look at it. However. Ingots get money, and money can acquire power…It is not how it is achieved but how it is used."
"You can donate them to the temples," Adla suggested. "The temples can build house to the poor."
Jedd and Nafets were quick to support her.
"Yes. I wished to use my power for justice, but it brought me death and insanity instead."
"Very tragic indeed.." Jedd mumbled.
Adla and Nafets both proposed alternate lifestyles for Erich. Adla said that Erich could join the brothers of Brigobaen, and Nafets mentioned that Mayor Palmer knew of an honest family in need of ingots. As Erich was considering these offers, a wizard named Quintep arrived at the bank and Adla realized it was mid-morning already.
"Father, we have made you miss the morning prayer. My deepest apologies."
"Worse! You made me miss breakfast" Nafets grinned.
Erich cut in. "My friend. You gave to me more with action. I'm sorry you missed your prayer. But understand you have brought me much joy."
"I think Elara will forgive me." Nafets looked pleased. "For that anyways."
Adla echoed him. "Elara forgives most things."
"Even though many cares distract us now in Mirith," Nafets stood up tall. "It is always the duty of a Priest to help those in need. Alas, those cares now warrant my attention. I bid you all farewell."
The Royal Cleric made his leave, and next Adla revealed her purpose in coming to Mirith. "I came here to look for Tiatan," she said. "Have you seen him?"
"Tiatan?" Jedd turned his head. "It has been quite some time since I have. Although.." He paused to think.
"Rogues…" Adla sighed. "I hope he is well."
Erich looked amused. "He is either well or about to be well. Rogues are either doing well or getting out of trouble."
"I heard his name the other day," Jedd went on. "Someone had met him recently."
"Oh? In Mirith?"
"Alas, he did not specify, or else I do not remember."
Adla smiled, though with a slight hint of disappointment. "And I am patient. If you see him, would you tell him I need his help?
"Thank you kindly. I should go to the temple now. I owe Elara my morning prayers." She faced Neblin. "Welcome back to the world of the goddess." She casted a flurry of protective spells on all those present, and left them with her blessing.
"It is… a pleasure to be back." Erich was beaming. "A man, an eye, a demon…and now I am a man again. I have never been happier. But what to do with it…"
Jedd yawned, the sleepless night beginning to take its toll. "Full circle."
"Yes." Erich laughed. "Maybe I'll be an eye again."
"You have the choice - demons cannot afford that privilege."
Erich's smile faded. "Yes. I shall only become one again if it is to spare others of the same fight."
"An honorable plan," Jedd mused. "But let's hope neither of us forget: Hell is paved with good intentions."
And with that, Erich went on his way, and Jedd slumped to the cold stone floor and entered the world of dreams.
Remembrance of a Bygone Life
Much later in the day, Jedd woke up from his slumber and found Erich at the bank again, in a different outfit.
"I will not be needing this anymore," he remarked as he cast the robe of his ghostly form to the ground. "Maybe the eye priests will make a relic out of it."
So all this business about an eye was referring to the Eye Cult of old. And clearly Erich had some previous connections with them, ten years gone.
"I wonder if them or the Black Hand will come looking for me…" Erich grimaced. "When I lost my mind I couldn't even remember them."
"With your new, or should I say old, identity, is this likely?" Jedd was still having a bit of trouble adjusting to the radical change.
"Moreso, I'd imagine."
And now it seemed likely that this man's past would come to haunt him. Jedd attempted to provide some comfort. "The eye priests have been without their patron saint for years, now."
Erich snorted with laughter. "More like their god…"
"True enough," Jedd conceded. "It's been years nonetheless. I don't think they will bother you very much."
Erich considered this for a moment. "True. That one guy could only remember my name started with a 'K'."
"That's in your favor. You never know who might make a comeback, though. I'm sure no one suspected Tirana. As for the Black Hand…"
"Ah yes." Erich lit up. "Good bunch of guys for the most part. I never could get promoted though…"
His old allegiances seemed to be fresh in his memory. Did he even remember all those years he spent as Neblin? Jedd finished his thought. "Diabolicals and Alliance alike were dealt severe blows in 438."
"Yes. Sam and I were into that."
So he did remember.
Erich went on. "But Neblin started to really lose it. Hmm… a shame."
"They are not gone yet, of course." Jedd lowered his voice. "The Diabolicals were organized enough to attempt an infiltration plot earlier in this year."
"Ah yes. Good for them." Erich nodded approvingly. "How does it feel to be on the receiving end? Really makes you consider how your actions impact others, does it not?"
Jedd could think of times when plans were made to infiltrate the Black Hand, yes. But that was fair - just like everything else in war. There was one thing he couldn't deny, though. It was the way he felt after learning of the Diabolical plot. It was the feeling of having his trust taken and thrown in his face. "The whole thing left a bitter taste in my mouth," he ended up saying.
"When I was growing up, those happened every day. Except it was you leaving them in my mouth. Look at what was accomplished! This violence the cities always start. It leads to nothing!" Erich sighed, his anger diminishing.
Jedd didn't agree that it was the fault of the cities, but let it go. Aside from that, though, he had a point. "The loss of trust is what bothered me the most." He wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone, not even a Diabolical or a pirate.
"It would be best for both of you if you could just stop!" Erich cried out. "That's how I've felt my whole life, comrade."
Wouldn't that be nice? "You might as well tell the sun to stop. You may lose trust in cities, politicians, and officials…"
Erich held up his hand. "Jedd. I never had any faith in your politicians. These men you fight? They live, they breath, they feel, just like you do."
"Yet for different reasons."
Erich ignored this. "When you kill a brigand, do you know who you are killing?"
"A father, a son, and much more besides," Jedd answered, unfazed.
"Yet you do nothing."
Jedd rubbed his temples. "To be a father, to be a son, is not what defines a good man."
"It is their actions that counts," Jedd shoved a closed fist into his other palm.
"But how do your actions impact them?"
Jedd saw where Erich was going. "The loss of life is tragic, indeed. Killing is the least viable option - but it is the easiest."
"And the only one sought, I fear." Erich murmured.
"Much easier than peace. You are probably right." Jedd's eyes dropped to the ground. Erich's line of thinking had brought them to a seemingly hopeless end to a conversation. There were, however, exceptions to the rule. "Though it is not the way of all men - I was thoroughly impressed with the rogue Tiatan."
He explained in brief the rogue's role in the Diabolical infiltration, specifically his refusal to harm Jirel and Misty.
"Good on him." Erich looked pleased. "Peace can only be made through those who are wise enough to seek it."
The sun was beginning to set, and Erich had some sort of business to take care of. He left Jedd with a short pledge: "I am a man once more. A man I shall be."
Jedd sat down and laid back against his pillar to enjoy the sunset. This Erich Kaestner had broken free of his demons, but was not without problems, for he remained a human. As the sun inched behind the hills, Jedd mulled over the final subject of their discussion. Lately, he had been trying his best at seeking peace. Erich, and Tiatan, had their points. There were times, though, when fighting was necessary. For one, Jedd could never have sat back in the name of peace while Tirana went on torturing and murdering citizens. It wasn't always the cities that perpetrated violence. The sun vanished beneath the horizon.