Part 47: Relneia Marsh
I don't know if you've ever walked through a dark marsh before. I'll try to describe it.
Before you can even take a step, you have to poke a stick into the ground to be sure it won't drown you. You have friends, powerful ones, but they can't help. Not if you get soaked. Deep water is death, invisible and everywhere.
When you lift your leg, the ground tries to suck your shoe off. Meanwhile, with your weight rested on one foot, the pressure pushes cold ooze between your toes.
With the damp crawling up to your waist, you finally reach a patch of dry land. Slimy black things are clinging to your shins. You pluck one, choking back bile, and something stings and blood begins to trickle. That's when you realise its teeth were in you. You notice the others growing fatter. You make the connection.
An hour later, your hands are still trembling, and you have red socks.
All around you, inhuman silhouettes growl in the mist, waiting for one chance. One moment of weakness. A stumble. A stuck foot. You calculate every movement to leave nothing vulnerable, and yell into the blackness, "I am not afraid, I am not afraid." The sound echoes, as if in response. "Neither are we. Neither are we."
You have been kidnapped, crossed a desert, braved dungeons, fought demons, and this is the most sickeningly fearful thing you've experienced.
But you promised to be brave.
And to turn away would leave too much behind you.
...you found me.
They found you.
I just walked.
Through a marsh. At night.
I said some things to you I shouldn't have. Didn't want them to be the last things.
And it's not night.
Where's Kullervo? How'd you get the book back?
It's a bit of a story. I suggest you come inside.
It's okay. I'll tell her.
Does anyone know where to go next?
I'm not sure. I do feel something, but it's very faint. Hard to say where it's coming from.
He must be further away than we were.
(Eh. Dunno. My tingle's as vague as yours.)
"Mount Elious"? Where did that come from?
You didn't put this here?
No. I might have thrown mountains in somewhere, but not this. I'm positive.
It's a sign, then. That's where we must go next.
But how did it get there? I've never even heard of Mount Elious.
The book isn't limited to what you use it for. It has power. More than you can tap.
That's why I thought it might bring Fana back. I still do. These boons are rare, but they have precedent.
So why didn't it do this before?
You've come this far on your own. I suppose that proves it didn't need to until now.
Just bring Rempo to us, then. Since you're so damn powerful. You do it. What do you need me for? What do you need us for? Is anything you do ever going to make any sense?
You're the one who started all this! How about you pull your weight for a change? You're like a god twiddling his thumbs!
(Hey, keep going. I was getting into that.)
I don't know if you can hear me, but...hello. Sorry for not talking to you sooner. Been busy again.
I wonder what it's like in there. Can you see out? I'll try and leave it open from now on. Just in case.
There's cake on page 285, if you want a piece. Here, I'll bookmark it.
Does that help?
...I'm not sure I can get you out. I tried before, but it didn't work. Whatever's going on in there, though, if you're scared, if you're suffering, it'll be over soon. I promise. You won't have to hurt anymore.
Maybe you're fine, though. Maybe it's just like being asleep. I hope it is. If you're resting, you go right ahead and rest. Don't let me bother you.
I'll write a dream for you tonight.
Just my luck, isn't it? The one person who would have stood up for me, and look what happens to them.
At least I think she would have. Hard to say anymore.
Of course she would have. She loved you.
She did. You know that.
Well what do you think? Are you telling me she didn't?
I think it's nice of you to say. But I really don't know that at all.
I do know I was important to her. Someone to talk to, someone to keep her chin up. Someone to look after her. I knew she'd be relying on me when Helen was gone. But that's not love, is it? That's just need.
I mean, I need this book, but I can tell you it'd be lying in that swamp right now if I didn't.
...is that why you didn't cure her?
That's what you thought? She'd just run off and forget all about you because she didn't need you? You were like family, for goodness sake!
That's what my family did.
Just packed up and disappeared while I was asleep one winter. Not even a note. And believe me, I've looked. I still do sometimes. So when you say she was like family, what exactly does that tell me?
Thing is, if you'd said this to me back then, I'd have agreed with you. People don't just up and leave you. I knew they were coming back. That's why I didn't ask anyone for help. That's why I almost froze to death in my own house. If I hadn't starved first.
I managed to work something out for that, though. See, you can't survive off little scraps of food, but what you can do is lure a stray cat over. Feed it from one hand, keep a rock in the other. Then just make sure you save a little bit for the next one.
And what about the people of Rhoan? They "loved" me. I was their hero. Then things went sour and they couldn't get rid of me fast enough. None of it mattered.
You can't know if someone loves you, Mieli. You can hope, but you can't know.
What difference does it make anyway? Even if you're right, it wouldn't have mattered. She'd still be gone now.
Nothing I do matters. I can't stop this. And it's all going to happen again because I'm not good enough and there's no time to make it better, is there? I don't have time. You'll have to see it all die again. Then I'll be just another human who didn't get it right.
I'm just a kid. I'm a stupid little kid and I've messed everything up. I'm sorry.
It's okay. It'll be alright.