Wednesday, July 7

The First Page

My name is Lizzeth Vernes, and this is the story of my life, and death. When I received this journal, so many years ago, in the spring, my grandmother told me to leave the first page blank, to write the last entry on the first page. Even then I knew it was a magic book, and that I could add more pages. I didn't understand why I should leave a page, white and glaring, waiting to be filled. I'll never forget what she told me.
"A tale can't be begun until it is finished, dear child." I said I didn't understand, and she laughed. I understand now. I was still a girl when I began keeping this journal. I've been reading the old entries again, and I'm surprised at the naiveté of that girl. By her innocence, and her ignorance of what was growing inside her even then. The days have passed, as they do, in short nights and long hours, and I've often thought about this first page. I wondered what I would have to say, when I was ready to put down this book for the last time. And every time I found that my pen has reached the back cover, I knew that I wasn't ready. That it wasn't just a diary, but the book of my life, and there were more pages to fill. There were more mountains to climb, more oceans to cross, more taverns and more dungeons. I was never ready, so I cut more paper, and I started again.
Now, there will be no more pages, and I still find that I'm not ready. I've come to realize that I would fill this page on my death-bed; that I would leave on this paper sheet my final words.
And I still don't know what to say.
I knew long ago that I would never escape the jaws of history. I would be another dusty footprint in her monstrous march towards the End of the World. I have often wondered what I should say. I've thought about finishing this page before, on the eve of mortal peril, or in seemingly impossible circumstances. These words were forming in my mind when I was captured in the Underdark, and when I was tried by the Order of Silver. My pen hovered over this page on the eve of the battle of the Burning Hills. I remember pitching camp on the mountain over the Dragon Rhykouhikeon's icy den and I stared at this page in the firelight. But I never wrote, because I knew it would be the last entry. It would leave no room for hope. I would never be coming back.
I remember when I saw Meowyn again, so many years after I left that dreadful school. She said she was happy with her decision, but she envied my freedom. She envied that I wasn't tied to a book by arcane threads. I didn't tell her so, but I knew that she was wrong. I was tied to this one, by my heartstring.
And now, I write the last entry because I am dying. I pulled too deep, pushed too hard, strained my mortal shell. I am not quite sure how to explain what has happened to me, what a week ago I merely suspected. The seal on the grove is holding, and I am confident that it will hold, possibly forever. But I am being taken with it, slowly, but surely. I will leave nothing of myself behind, save this book, these words. I feel as though I am a lump of coal, or a glass of mead. My essence is slipping away, to the Far Realms, or the chaotic seas of Limbo, or some other Plane; I cannot say where. Perhaps I am diffusing to the winds themselves. All I know is that it cannot be stopped. Zacharias and Eren have both worked their most powerful spells, with no effect. They say they can slow the process, but I am slipping out of this world. I have spent the last week making plans. The Citadel shall continue well beyond myself, Eren has sworn to assist in any way she can, and I know I can take the Dwarf at her word. The training itself will be held by Valia, who is pure hearted, amongst her other faults. I have no fears. Garulf has stayed by my side the whole time. He's sitting here by my bed this very moment. He'll be here until the end. After that, he is going to find Zacharias and Targon. The fools have gone off after the Druids. I know that Zacharias has outstanding business with his old comrades, but the Half-tall Rager is going purely for revenge. I fear he will die badly.
I will bear no mortal remains, but I have seen to the process of converting my lab into a tomb in any case. I was too weak to handle the reversal of the energies myself, but Valia handled it beautifully. Eren showed me the seals. She carved them herself, and they bear her hand well. The contracts for the Outsider Guardians are all in order, although I worry about the Ifreeti. Should he escape, I don't know if the other seals will weaken with his passage. Here in, on the final pages, I have written the sigils and the nature of the Great Sealing. Should the druids' godling stir again, the world will be prepared for it, although the cost may be higher for another than even what I pay.
I am weak, the pen is hard to hold. I can feel the skein of my life winding down. I know that I have little time, and little strength left. I will be short. I was lucky. I was not a genius. I tried hard and sometimes won, more often I lost. I never bested the High Defender. I never found the Dagger of Midnight. I never returned the Great Forger's Cannon to the world of Men. I don't know what secrets that mighty book will hold. All I can do is hope that someday it is returned to the light. If I had to guess, though, I hope that it is a book like this one. I hope it is not a mere grimoire, but a record of his life, his thoughts, his hopes and disappointments. I hope the Four Swords are raised together one day. I was a harbinger of the Third Age of the world, I hope it is a time of peace, not merely a time of Sorcery. I go beyond the void.