Belonging in Bloodstone
We go home for the first time in a while after being run out from Ban-Uldud. It’s too bad. I liked Ban-Uldud and a lot of the people there. I even liked the people who hate me.
Shoreline Manor creaked and moaned when we came back in. It felt a little bit like it was saying hello to us. Jeremiah kept the place in ship-shape. It needs a lot of work and hopefully the money we earned is able to help out with that. I’m of no mind for shabby quarters but I think Dorian would like the place to be a little bit more comely. That idea makes sense to me, especially if we want to earn more money and make more friends with the nobles around. It will help us all - our family.
Jeremiah has mail for us. He hands me a scroll and has a sheepish look in his eyes as he does so. I know that it’s from Carson and it’s my punishment for being late with my delivery of goods. On it are some words. It’s a wanted poster with a sketch of a young dwarf girl. It’s Eurydice, who Lucien had kidnapped and held ransom as we went to snag the golem heart from the gnoll cult. She had been captured and will be delivered judgement in two days. It was for a crime I committed. Can I cry or scream or fight through this? I don’t know.
We’re tired and go to rest. I feel Simon like a blanket over me when I slip away from the others - maybe the house was warning me about him when I went in. He appears in the corner with some magic trick and glares at me with his intensely green eyes. He asks me how I am and what sort of trouble I’ve been upto. I tell him I’m worried about Carson and might want a little bit of help. He gives me something, and I know deep inside myself that anything he gives to me has some kind of cost, but I think it’s a worthy thing.
He tells me to take things softly.
I don’t belong to things that are soft. Babies are soft. Pillows are soft. Pompous mages whipping little boys to within an inch of their lives in the towers of Isard are soft. I am not those things. I will never be fully and completely soft. But there might be a chance to be a little bit soft.
All of a sudden I heard something more real - someone outside my door! Did somebody listen to me speaking with Simon? If they knew what I did - well, what would they think about me? J would try to kill me. I cursed them with his presence! I rushed outside to see who was spying on me. No surprise - Giacomo was lurking around. Ake was around too, and I found that a little bit surprising. He’s a tough nut to crack - hard for me to tell about what he wants. Maybe he just wants to peeop on me.
I yelled at them to make myself feel a little bit better. Giacomo tried to provoke me a bit and I thought a little bit about chopping off his hand or something like this, but then I thought that this was Simon telling me to do fun and bad things again so I didn’t follow through on that part. I did some of those things at Ban-Uldud and thought a lot about if those things made me feel better. It didn’t. I mean, it did. But it also didn’t. It’s hard to explain so I’ll try with a story.
Imagine you’re a hermit crab and you’ve been looking all of your life for a nice home. The Rilador would probably find all of the really nice ones and rent them out to you for a good rate, but this is me being out of focus so ignore that part. So you as a hermit find something. It fits you well and matches your colours and might make the other hermit crabs jealous. You have to fight them off on occasion but you’ve secured something for yourself. Well all of a sudden you find yourself a little snug around the shell and realize that in all of that jostling and scurrying around you’ve gotten bigger and stronger. So you go and find another shell. You do this a few times and start to figure out that there will always be a bigger shell and that you’re only remembering the parts where you fight. You don’t remember the parts where the sun ripples through the water or the shadows of birds above scuttle through the sea or the perfect quietness of night. You don’t grow and need to change at those times. You feel tranquil. The calm before the storm.
I think this is a part in my life where I need to embrace the calm before the storm. This might mean yelling at my pervert friends until Giacomo drops that he’s Tong. What? He’s also related to Carson. What? I go to grab my anchor to chop his body in half but then remember my story. Calm. Calm. I am not the storm right now.
Simon pokes and prods our group some. He shows himself as I try to play a trick on Giacomo. After Narcel’Uss and Ildan left, the master bedroom was left empty. Gone without a trace. I was dwelling some personal things moreso than dwelling on that over the past week. But they abandoned me and only now do I know how much it hurts.
There’s a lot of yelling between people - Simon is the only one that doesn’t yell. He likes when we’re all yelling at each other, and he shows that joy in his eyes. Only it isn’t joy. It’s the sort of look that Lucien had when he had the wheel with Narcel’Uss’s fate. Steering the way gives someone that power, and for a tiny instant I saw that look from Simon. Otherwise he is a stone to me - impenetrable.
By the end of it my mind is exhausted. Everyone is mad at everyone. J is really mad at me and I want to reflect that rage at her. Dorian wants answers about bargains and deals and I don’t want to make any more. I just want to see Carson and settle the deal.
I wake up and ignore the group. They want to stick together and settle business but I have no business with them. I have business with Carson. J and Giacomo follow me as I go into town but I don’t talk to them until we make it to the Crimson Sail. I tell them to go away but they stick around. They’re as stubborn and dumb as I am.
A goblin and ogre bouncer - same as before - greet us at the door. They tell me that I’m expected and I tell them that I know that already. Don’t let your temper flare, Ren. The bar is dingy and sparse. Ahead of the counter is a little boy. He’s been harmed. Now I want to let my temper flare. The Guppy has a scar running on the side of his face. Punishment for a crime that I committed. He wears it with a smile and stands tall. Lets me know that I’m expected. I know that already.
I go down on my knees to look at the Guppy and see that he has become the Mountain. Someone lets me know this - it’s otherwise all noise to me. He likes being treated this way. He likes being shackled and thrown around for profit. He likes being told what to do. I look him in the eye at his level and it’s all that he is for the moment. His eyes are still clear and deep and I catch my reflection in them. I will never be that way.
Giacomo and J come with me as I go up to see Carson. He is pleased to see me and I try my best to be soft. It is the hardest thing that I’ve had to do yet. I want him so desperately to see the storm.
He and I have a chat about a lot of things. The main thing is about loyalty. That’s a tough one because it involves a lot of the people who I’m loyal to. I’m loyal to the Rilador even though they probably still want to kill me. I’m loyal to the Frontier Rangers and will be loyal to their dead from the summer campaign. I’m loyal to my friends in Theringrad and Isard and the mystics who taught me how weird life can be. I’m loyal to J and Giacomo, who seem to have my back even though I continue to yell at them. I’m loyal to Dorian, Bird Girl, Vani, Ake, and Rinn because they’re my family. I’m loyal to Narcel’Uss and Ildan too, even though they’re gone. But I’m also loyal to Carson and Simon and those are two people I would rather not be loyal to. I help them for now. I just hope that it won’t hurt my friends and family too much. I hope they can take it.
We leave with a deal: I find information that the Tong would find valuable in exchange for Eurydice’s protection. I’m loyal to her too even though she didn’t like me when we met. She deserves a chance, just like anyone else that is not trying to kill you. Giacomo and I think about the ways how we can find useful information as we meet up with the rest of the T.I.P. We meet in front of where most of these troubles began - in front of Lucien’s house. I wait outside as the other members conduct their business, standing in front of the spot where I killed the assassin. Was that the right decision, what I did? I protected my family at a cost that I don’t think I was ready to pay. I turn and think about Nak’Chaal and Attala and maybe they could be thinking similar things. The thought is gone in an instant as the group comes out, ready to move forward.