It was peculiar, perhaps even absurd, that he should be served with a more becoming quartering after having put three Jiskadarian guards to the sword; Shyrrik wasn’t in the sort of mind to argue it. But sleeping upon straw and not stone did little to turn his dire mood. Sitting up in the evening, he scratched with agitation in his leather-bound book of secrets in fair reflection of his nervous state of being. His handwriting seemed to be the most honest manifestation of his countenance, for his neatness and ability to remain page-parallel fluctuated to a severe degree in perfect accordance with the theme of each entry. Here, he was unsteady as ever.
The elf would visit him that night, arriving amid the last few jabbings of his quill across paper. Pushing her sense of violation onto him in her gratingly genteel way, the ruse that they strode through was laughably predictable. He offered her his typical esoterica, legitimately beholden to nothing but, and she soured over him in disbelief before removing herself without a single meaningful thought exchanged between the two of them. Characteristically hollow, words seemed to be a liturgical nothing for them. Here the ranger had confessed something heartfelt, but it was beside the urgent point and devoid of leverage.
Is there a more sacred symbol of liberty than a man’s ability to act or to not act? Bind him, break him, blackmail him with his most abominable secrets, but righteous will he remain in his freedom to direct himself in a manner of his choosing. I have long been grateful, if not neglectful, of this gift, and in fact it has been of some succor to me the more deeply I have entrenched myself in this war. Beneath all the worldly entanglements I have, beneath the fear of failure, there is the strength of conviction. Through this strength I can act, and when I act it is a great and glorious rebellion against the elements and the forces that seek to quiet me. Control is man’s greatest comfort.
So, then, what am I to make of it when a calm moment begets such a brash and emboldened act from me that I can scarcely recall at all my reasons for having done it? That is a lie, of course, for I know with grim precision what it was that threw me so wildly out of sorts there at the border. I am not a rogue nor a deceiver, I have not the talent or the quick wit for it. I am not a violent sort, at least my conscience would beg to make that case. I am not so shamelessly treacherous, nor recklessly negligent as to endanger and incriminate my friends without clear reason. Why is it then that I sit here in this dim and wettish cell?
This spectral gadfly within my hood selected a fine time to instill in me a sudden awareness of my own fortitude, and now I am fearful. Never have I been so impulsive. And, yet, never have I been so immediately and completely convinced of a course of action that it pulled me right out of my own good sense. That may not be precisely accurate, for it was that I became thoroughly assured of our erroneous approach; my conduct thereafter remains mysterious, but I knew that a political approach here would solve nothing. These shapeshifters, I do not trust them, not in this plane and not in this country. Most fortunate here is that my identity has remained undiscovered, for they do not know of me. It will help me as I weave my way through the capitol.
I see the look on the elf’s face, and I know of it. The misfortune in this is simply monolithic. As it was in the mines, so too am I now presented with a choice. Crossed between her trust and her well-being, I am compelled to turn toward the latter, and it may be that this iniquitously woven world will not provide for a friendship between she and I.
This wounds me. I will wound her enemies to soothe myself.