The first entry is dated ten years prior to the Professor’s funeral. It is written in Varisian with large careful blocky letters. Several of the words are misspelled and it is clear that this is an entry by someone unused to writing.
A woman named Cam has stayed with us for the last two weeks. She was hurt in the woods and mom has been helping her. I like Cam and she has been helping me learn to write. It is hard because I have to learn using the town language. Cam says I am really smart. She tells me a lot of stories about the big city down south. I really want to go see it some time.
The next pages are covered with surprisingly detailed drawings of animals and trees, each with a little description. A number of other images have been folded up and stuffed between the pages. The next dated entry is six months later.
Mom and dad came back today. Hegrev and I had been exploring the ruins when they came home. I was surprised when we saw them because they weren’t supposed to be back for another week. Kar was with them but when I asked about Bevor mom just started crying. Bevor had startled a mother bear and she attacked him. Mom and dad chased it off but Bevor was dead. Dad and Hegrev were crying too but I just sat next to mom and stared at Bevor’s bag. Last night I couldn’t sleep right and every time I closed my eyes I had terrible dreams about the bear and Bevor. I would shout and shout but he never saw the bear until it was too late.
The nature drawings continue after this entry but many are covered with scribbled ink while others contain disturbing images of animal corpses, insect nests, and various molds and fungi. The descriptions, especially concerning the decomposition of corpses, are significantly more detailed and the handwriting is dramatically improved. There are no personal entries until 4 years later.
Bevor died four years ago today. I still have the dreams, but they come less frequently now. My parents decided that it would be safer if I didn’t stay behind at the cabin alone when they went out on their expeditions. Hegrev, they said, was old enough to come with them but the thought it would be better if I went to live with father’s cousin Belor Hemlock in Sandpoint. Cousin Belor has been amazing. He has been very supportive despite all my frustrating mood swings. For once the natural distrust people of my clan suffer has worked in my favor and I have been largely free to come and go as I please without the need to be social.
When Belor saw my drawings he introduced me to Ilsoari Gandethus who has been teaching me about magic and every other topic I can ask about. Between him and Aliver Podiker, the town apothecary that is shunned almost as much as I am, I have learned a lot about the natural world and how it works. I don’t want to admit it but coming here has been rewarding. I have learned more here than I could have on my own at the cabin. Next year is my naming. Master Gandethus has told me about a large university in Korvosa. Maybe when I come of age I will be allowed to go there and study.
After this entry there are fewer drawings and more textual entries. A year later Beshkee participates in her naming ceremony and is given the name Elk Runner in honor of her many excursions into the wilds around her family’s cabin and Sandpoint. Her parents ask her to stay with the tribe but eventually consented to let her go to Korvosa and study. Elk Runner is in Korvosa for five years. She goes to study magic but finds the rigidity of spell casting just beyond her grasp. Three entries from this period stand out.
Damn that bitch! Two years we were together. I
loved love her; bitch. She didn’t even have the courtesy to talk about it with me. She just came to my room, said it was over and then left. And she fucking left. Withdrew her enrollment and left the city. She told the innkeeper that she was going home for a month. Damnit Cythia why couldn’t you just talk to me. Damnit.
As I sit down to write this I can’t remember why I decided to go to the lecture last night. It was on the history of the old empire ruins. I’ve never studied that stuff before. I guess I just needed to get out of the room. I don’t think I have been out except for lessons and meals since Cythia left. But I sure am glad I did go. The ruins are everywhere in Varisia and there seem to be as many people studying them as there are stones. I took some lessons with professors that talked about the food that people ate from back then, or the architectural reasons for using andesite rather than marble in their buildings. Not this professor. He gets up to the podium in his well worn finery and his scared face and starts to tell stories about the glories of the old empire. He talks about the grand experiments of their arcanists and armies of Giant servants that built their cities and monuments.
After the lecture most people just left the hall amidst mutterings about old men with crazy theories. I went up to speak with him. His name was Lorimor. He told me about his travels around Avistan speaking at different universities in exchange for a chance to look through their libraries. When we started talking about my studies and how I had trouble grasping the arcane spell formulas he told me about alchemists. I knew from Mr. Podiker that you could mix potions without spells but what Professor Lorimor described was a whole other level. He talked about mixing volatile explosives that could rival a wizards fireball and droughts that could bring back the dead. I am going to visit him tomorrow to borrow some books and talk some more about the world outside the city.
I received a disturbing letter today from Ustalav. It was signed by Kendra Lorimor, the Professor’s daughter. She said that the Professor had died suddenly in the little town of Ravengro. It is a long journey to Ustalav from here, even if I wanted to brave the orc lands. I will make it gladly though. The professor quite literally changed my life. If hadn’t come to speak at the University that day I probably would have dropped out. I was getting nowhere with my study of magic and most of my friends turned out to be Cythia’s friends first. I was days away from declaring defeat and going home to face the judgmental stares of the tribe. The Professor changed all that. He showed me a different way of seeing the world. The other instructors at the University are too concerned with their little area of academic pursuit that they don’t see what is really happening. There are dangers in the world that everyone needs to be prepared to face. I promised the Professor that I would keep studying and experimenting with my alchemy so that if those dangers came to Varisia I would be ready.
I will leave tomorrow with a caravan that is going to try and make it through Nimrathas. I don’t know that I will ever come back to Korvosa. The University has nothing more to teach me. What I need is out there now. Even in death the Professor is pushing me towards a greater journey.
Many people when they hear about the spell Circle of Death it conjures up images of horrific pain and decaying flesh. In actuality it is a rather peaceful way for a person to die. The soul is simply severed from the body and death is instantaneous. Most of the pain comes from the shock, both to the departed soul and the survivors that witness the sudden termination. For Beshkee this was exactly what happened. One moment she was drifting over the rubble covering the floor of the tower and the next there was nothing but blackness. Having struggled to throw off a blinding curse earlier that evening she felt she understood what had happened to her. She had only a moment to realise that she couldn’t feel her body or hear the sounds of the combat. Panic set in but turned to surprise as the darkness immediately vanished leaving only blinding white.
Beshkee looked down and saw her body, naked but intact. All of her wounds were healed and the dust and grime of weeks of constant travel had been washed away. The room, for she had no other word to describe it, was pure white and there seemed to be no edges. The white sameness continued on as far as she could see. This was quite unlike the vision of Desna given a few nights back. The emptiness was strangely comforting.
“I’m glad you are here.”
The only distinguishing feature was a door made of some grey stone unlike anything she had ever seen. It was massive, easily ten times her size. Letters, numbers, and images filled the surface of the door. Some appeared carved into the stone, other seemed made of light and danced across its face. It was not attached to anything for this place seemed to have no floor or ceiling. She only called it a door because of the narrow seam running down the center.
“Do you know where you are?”
Beshkee finally focused on the voice. It was high pitched with a certain menacing warmth. When she stopped to look the source of this strange voice was either a halfling or a human child, but only the outline of one. This blurred form sat with crossed legs just the the left of the door.
“Am I dead?”
“In a moment.”
“Is this Elysium?”
“No, this is nowhere.”
“Why am I here?”
“You know why.”
Even as he spoke Beshkee knew that answer. She looked down again at her remade body. It glowed faintly, pulsing with the beating of her heart.
“The Alchemy. The power I took in changed me, bound my essence and my body. The alchemy I performed in the lab is taking place in my spirit. I am different.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“You are Truth.”
The child-being smiled at this. Two rows of pointed teeth filled his wide grin. He gestured to the door behind him.
“Do I go through?”
“That is your choice.”
“What’s behind it?”
“Only you can find that out.”
One of the pictures spinning through the door grew brighter and larger, seeming to come forward from within the stone. At first it was a generic profile of a young man but then the face turned. It had the same high cheeks and rounded chin Beshkee knew from the mirror but distinctly masculine. It looked directly at Elk Runner and smiled and she had her answer. She started to walk toward the door which swung open of its own accord. Beyond it was light and darkness, form and shapelessness. As she passed the threshold Elk Runner felt, for the first time in a long while, joy.