We split up to investigate the city. Most of us head to the bazaar, although Ryltar finds shelter from the sun. Two stalls over, I see Grumnil talking to two of the city’s denizens. One of them is Jafar. He doesn’t seem to recognize us. Curious. We must have traveled back in time. I hadn’t known such a thing was possible. The implications make me a bit dizzy.
We regroup. Grumnil explains that the other man he talked to was Iago, Jafar’s mentor, and that we have been invited to visit the two at the city’s center of the arcane. Jan mentions that this is rather beneficial, as there are rumors of a recently-discovered artifact that may be connected to a wardstone. The artifact has been taken to the same place we are to meet the two arcanists. The day still has several hours left, so we leave immediately.
We head up the tower. Iago and Jafar await us, the former having apparently already started some sort of arcane experiment. Lightning forms and lances out from a spire, possibly the artifact we had heard about. What is its purpose?
I am knocked on the ground as the artifact erupts. My vision clears. Half a dozen reavers, including one that Gant would call a Corrupter, appear before us. Behind them, a dark portal hangs suspended in the air. The Corrupter leans forward and plucks something from the ground: a wardstone. We rise to our feet as Charles begins circling our foes. The reavers twist and distort reality around them. I’m… having trouble moving correctly. I press forward regardless.
Yan summons a twisting wall of fire beneath the reavers while Grumnil paralyzes their leader with a shaft of radiance. This appears to be the opening Charles was waiting for. He deftly maneuvers his way to the back of our enemies’ formation, and with a few quick blows the Corrupter is defeated.
The wardstone clatters to the ground, surrounded by blazing fire and spinning blades. If left where it fell, another reaver could pick it up, or it could be knocked through the rift. I see what I must do. I concentrate, and flicker from one side of the walls to the other and then back, picking up the stone as I pass over it. The process is… extraordinarily painful, but the stone is secured. I look down at it. A heart. Compassion. We’ll see.
The last reavers are consumed by Jan’s flames, but the rift still lies open. I raise the stone to the gate, as Audra did in the Cloakwood. A beam of energy jumps from the tear to the stone and connects the two. Something is wrong. A flood of emotion washes over me. Concern, empathy, acceptance, all swell up like a rising tide. The temptation to give in and drown in them is… very strong. And why should I fight it? The war against the reavers has already consumed my future, my freedom, my humanity. How much more am I expected to give up? Why should I not have this?
No! These thoughts are not mine! This compassion is a luxury, a distraction, alien. I need to fight it off. I can never, never drop my guard. I must remain vigilant. I must retain control! I… I can’t hold on…