To Mend a Mind

Date: 07/24/2013 at 02:58
From: Anonymous
To : Everyone
Subj: To Mend a Mind

As the stars glimmered in the sky beyond the low, windowless tower, Ezekial considered the assembled Shadowsnakes before him. Led by Shadow Matrix Jarrod Lucoster, they numbered eight: Shadownymph, Strata, Paine, Simoln, Daemian, Roam, Corr, and Jarrod himself. Behind Ezekial stood the four Occultists who would aid in the dangerous working: Lianca, Verily, Sybilla, and Wyntiri.

"This will be dangerous," the Occultist scholar again warned. "Be certain to maintain your separation, for if you become ensnared in his mind, you will be vulnerable to the same neuroses that affect him. Even so, you may be threatened by things within his mind: dangerous memories, or... other things. So be warned, and be cautious." The Shadowsnakes looked at each other and nodded, their resolve steady.

Together with the four Occultists, Ezekial began the ritual, gathering colourful Chaotic energies to ground them and create a bridge into the mind of the man who had been the Shadow Codex. "Reach forward to touch him," he instructed, straining to maintain the exhausting working. "And be careful! The only way out is to find what you came for!"

With that, the Shadowsnakes were transported into a strange, twisting mindscape. All around them, their surroundings shifted and altered at a moment's notice. As they got their bearings, a figure who appeared to be the shadow-wreathed man appeared in their midst. "Who... who are you?" he inquired, confused.

Quickly, the Shadowsnakes began to try to pry his name out of him, but they found they could not. Instead, as he became more and more perturbed, they flashed through a series of his memories.

First, they were taken to a scene recognisable as a war room in Ashtan, though very different from the war room of the modern day. There, the man acted out a memory, bowing to several people he called "Warleader" and "General" and murmuring that he would do his best.

As the Shadowsnakes watched, confused, the memory repeated, and this time their eyes lit up with realisation: this man was an early serpentlord from one of the Ashtan cabals, and he was being ordered to fight in a war. "What war?" demanded one of the serpents.

Abruptly, the man screamed in agony and fear, and the memory changed. They stood on a blood-soaked battlefield outside Ashtan's gates. Almost immediately they were beset by misty, remembered spectres of hobgoblin warriors, though they fought them off with ease.

Though shocked by the sudden violence of the memory in which they found themselves, the Shadowsnakes now knew the answer to their question. The man had fought in the Battle of Ashtan, during the Black Wave.

Here, they watched as the nameless man acted out another memory: the memory of the battle itself. Alongside the indistinct figures of several other serpents, he moved swiftly, taking down hobgoblin after hobgoblin. "So many of them... so few of us..." he murmured to himself as he fought.

The Shadowsnakes shivered, a premonition of fear dancing through their minds, and they gathered closer together. In the distance, a tall figure, cloaked in shadow but resembling a twisted, menacing Tsol'aa, began to stalk towards them, misty memory-figures of Ashtani soldiers falling dead around it.

"What is that?" breathed Roam, and Paine gave the chilling response: "Tsol'teth."

Just as the figure neared, however, the memory froze with a shudder, and the shadow-wreathed man turned to listen to something only he could hear. "Sanctuary... safety... the knowledge to keep them safe," he murmured, gesturing to his half-seen fellows and glancing up to the Shadowsnakes with anguish. "What else could I have done?"

The Shadowsnakes nodded, knowing what had happened. Eris, the rainbow-eyed Goddess of Chaos, had appeared and offered him a deal, and he had taken it.

With a sharp jerk, the memory began to fade into darkness, leaving the gathered serpents hanging in a cold, dark prison-- reminiscent, they thought with a shiver, of the Codex within which the man had been locked for four centuries.

Here, the man began to break down into tears, the remorse of leaving behind his men and the stress of four hundred years of imprisonment taking its toll. "I couldn't save them!" he sobbed. "I could only save my own worthless hide."

The Shadowsnakes sought to console him, but it was too late: behind the man rose a shadowy figure, the manifestation of his self-hatred, his trauma, his despair, and his memory of the Tsol'teth who had killed his men in his absence.

With a scream, the shadow launched itself at the Shadowsnakes, and they were hard-pressed to defend themselves. Some came close to being slain in the depths of the madman's mind. At last, however, with a furious cry, Corr laid the final blow and the figure faded away.

The nameless man gave a start, a new light of awareness dawning in his eyes. Quickly the Shadowsnakes interrogated the mental figure of the man, and soon learned his name: Reynard Trefois, a nobleman of Ashtan... and a serpent.

As soon as he said his own name, the man vanished with a glad cry, leaving behind a globe of light that the Shadowsnakes used to exit his mind and return to the windowless tower in the reassuringly real, solid world.

There, Ezekial chuckled and pointed at the real body of the man, revealed to be Reynard Trefois. "In that case, Reynard, let's get that off of you." Uttering Reynard's true name, divined through some secret occult practice, he tore away the veils of shadow that bound him and left the ancient serpent free again.

Sane once more, Reynard Trefois immediately bowed low before Jarrod Lucoster, swearing an oath of fealty to the Shadowsnakes, who had entered the mind of a madman in order to free him, and inquired as to the survival of his relatives in the years since the war-- after all, he remarked, it would have been sixty years. They were likely much changed.

The gathered Ashtani looked at one another uncomfortably before Lianca coughed. "More like six hundred," she said sympathetically. "It is six hundred and thirty-one years after the Fall of the Seleucarian Empire."

Reynard looked stunned. "The Empire fell? I don't..." He fell silent, a strange, sad expression crossing his face. "I need to be alone," he said at last. "And then perhaps a drink or eight, and a history lesson."

Thanking the assembled for the great service they had done him, the lost Ashtani nobleman wandered away. Those who passed him in the streets that day remarked that they had never seen a man so befuddled by the great city and yet so familiar with its streets.

Clearly, they concluded, the man was mad.

Reynard Trefois was happy to report that they were very wrong indeed.

Penned by My hand on the 19th of Aeguary, in the year 631 AF.