It was just after dawn at The Temple of Rashomon and I stood with Draiden, Kerick, Hakka, Tekil and Wheeler on the deck of The Dashing Stag watching the sun rise. All of us had just finished karma rituals, and now we were standing together sipping Draiden’s tea in relative quiet as the rest of the crew started to wake. The events of the day before had us in deep thought as we looked out of the sun rising over the ruins of Rashomon’s Temple.
Draiden broke the silence first. I remember his face was grim as he spoke… he seldom held back the feelings in his heart.
“Those horrors were something else.”
His voice was quiet, I felt the turmoil in him. Both he and Tekil had been corrupted by the Dread Iota horrors that Questors of Garland killed the day before, and each of them had been shaken at realization that they could be manipulated in such a way.
Tekil nodded. “Aye. They were that.”
He spit over the rail and glared into the rising sun with a grim look. “Bastards.”
Tekil had only recenty started joining our group in the mornings, and I was glad of his presence. He was a bull of a man, heavy set with a short brown beard. He appeared to be too large to move fast, but was not the case as he was a very skilled warrior who was quick with a blade. He was much older than the rest of us, maybe thirty summers, and though he was not well educated he was very world wise and a man who had grown up in a world of hard knocks. He had been from a Northern province of Konigsberg, a town where many dwarves live, and he still carried many of their mannerisms. Always serious, and ever the pessimist, Tekil was a good and loyal ally. I remember thinking then, as I had many times before, that I was glad I didn’t have to fight him back at The Reach when we first met.
There was a long pause then Draiden muttered; “I cannot seem to come to terms with the fact that I acted like I did.”
Without taking his eyes off of the purple-red sky, he added; “I am sorry my friends, I don’t know what I was thinking. I am ashamed”
I had formed a response in my head, but before I could utter a sound, Kerick, his voice ever calm and measured, spoke and stole my words almost letter for letter. I remember them to this day.
“One cannot be vexed at oneself for what one cannot control. We all saw how crazed Ardor was yesterday, how Arrius and Womax ran off like men insane. How Womax, Suulin, Taran and others were trying to talk themselves out of doing bad things. Those creatures corrupted most everyone with ease, and it was simply good fortune that some of us were not effected. Nobody here feels that we could have handled it any better. There is no blame to had for anyone, those like myself who were not effected feel only sympathy for those who were. Take heart, in knowing that in spite of the efforts if so many horrors, we prevailed only losing one of our own after slaying so many of them.”
His words had a profound impact on the others. Tekil nodded to him out of respect for his words. Draiden sighed, and seem to relax a little. Wheeler and Hakka both smiled a little as the tension left the air.
Within me, something stirred. I felt a feeling of peace and tranquility, but also what I could only describe as motivation. I knew it was Rashomon, and that he wanted me to inspire Kerick to be one of his followers, or Olzim as it is called in the many books of the Passions I had read.
It made sense to me. Kerick had always been a thoughtful and graceful leader, it was why we chose him as the first mate of the ship. In battle, he fought like a man who sought to prove how amazing his swordsmanship skills were, always seeking to impress us with his swordplay, but such is the discipline of the Swordmaster. Yet he was never careless, and was a man who every member of the crew and The Unchained, had great respect for.
I would make Kerick an Olzim of Rashomon, and he, I thought, would one day become a questor. I smiled at the thought of this as a looked again upon the white stone of Rashomon’s temple, which now somehow seemed brighter than it had when I first saw it a few days before. Maybe, I thought, the taint of the horrors being gone caused it to seem this way, or maybe it was Rashomon’s return. Regardless, the world seemed a brighter place that day in spite of our sorrow for the loss of Arrius.
I knew this new found brightness in the world was a good thing.
I had little time to reflect upon it further that cool, bright morning. For I knew we would be leaving for K’Nteshin in a few minutes to drop off the questors of Garland, and then we were off to Throal to be heroes once again by turning in the villan Trejack and his minions. I knew I would have to address the crew about the horrors and echo the wise words of Kerick. There was much to do, yet somehow none of it seemed daunting. I remember that I smiled into the sun as the first of the rest of the crew made their way onto the deck. I was thinking that Rashomon has returned and that brighter days must be ahead for all of Barsaive.