The Inn at Dragon's Gate slept in the quiet of midnight. Gnoll, goblin, half-orc, human, all slumbered in what passed for the tranquil stillness of Valkith at night: the creak of wheels and shouts from drivers of merchants arriving late to the city, shouts of drunken orcs being "escorted" out the local tavern, and the overall seethe and roil of a city built on a volcano blended together to form the low rumble that was the symphony of Valkith. But the kobold was not to be found in any of the beds of the Inn at Dragon's Gate.|
Not far away, Nibar stared across the rooftops of the mostly-sleeping city, from his perch on the battlements of the city walls. Even here, from this remove, and even now, the city held menace. It snored out a warning to strangers: have a care what you do here. These rooftops, these streets, they were his home, but they looked so alien to him now. Very little in the city had changed since he left two years ago; it was Nibar who had changed. He'd gone out into the world, seen strange lands, stranger people, seen (and fought) horrors beyond what he would have been able to fathom just two short years ago.
'Having even an ethereal body is wonderful, lad, but I assume you didn't bring me up here simply for the view,' came a voice from off to his right. It belonged to the translucent figure of an old man, sitting next to him on the battlement.
After the battle with the dark shadow of himself, while everyone else was seeing to Hoenheim, healing wounds physical and mental, and the various other tasks that came in the aftermath, Nibar had taken Imrijka aside.
'We have helped you, Inquisitor, and made things more difficult for ourselves in the process. Not to mention that you now have the Book Of Twilight. Now I require a favor from you; it's small, but it will have a unique purpose. I don't have the money or the time for it, but someone in your position should have little trouble in acquiring it for me,' Nibar had told her.
'And what gives you the delusion that I am obligated to do anything more for you? You're wanted, and have a lot of questions to answer to certain powerful people in this city,' Imrijka shot back at him, with a knowing smirk on her face.
'If good sense and gratitude aren't enough to persuade you, then I'd say that there's a certain amount of trouble I could land you in, regarding my knowledge of the origins of Seetha and Morg, and because I'm a lot harder to lay hands on than I used to be.'
More words had been exchanged, words cold and hard, so much so in fact that, looking back on it, he'd surprised himself at the audacity he displayed. Two days later, however, Nibar had a small violet crystal in his pocket. Its small arcane battery could open a small conduit to the Ethereal Plane for a short time each day. It didn't have enough power to allow someone to travel through, merely a small portal that could be used for the projection of a body.
Because sometimes talking to a book just wasn't good enough.
The kobold remained silent for a time, letting the sounds of night in the great city of the Bloodskull wash over them. At length, he said, 'No, I didn't bring you up here for the view. I needed someone to talk to, and I don't think my friends would really understand. I'm not sure you will. And I'm not sure how to begin.'
'I understand, Nibar. But just say what you need to, and we'll work it out from there.'
Nibar sighed, frustration twisting his face. 'I don't know, it's...ever since we defeated that shadow of myself, and we put it back into the Book Of Twilight, I've been wondering who I am now. It changed me, took out a part of my personality, and put other stuff in. That fear has been a part of me for so long that I'm not sure I know who I am without it.
'I mean, of course it's still me, but yet it isn't. It's like a few of the pieces have been rearranged or something.'
Agonis stroked his long white beard, lost in thought for several moments. Finally, he said, 'I don't think anyone else can tell you who you are now, Nibar. But I can say that you haven't let your fear and doubt define you for some time now.'
Nibar scoffed. 'Yes, I have. Of course I have! I've been afraid of everything for almost as long as I can remember!'
The old wizard shook his ethereal head. 'No, Nibar, you haven't. But you've accustomed yourself to thinking that way to such an extent that even when you haven't let your fear rule you, you have refused to see it. A person who let fear rule him wouldn't have said "No" to Baelphegaz. A person who let fear him wouldn't have stood up to those bullies in Seaharrow. A person who let fear rule him wouldn't have teleported himself into the belly of a dragon. And certainly a person who let fear rule him wouldn't have done anything to draw the attention of a group of demons exiled from Hell.'
Nibar opened his mouth to reply with doubt and scepticism plain on his face, but Agonis held up a warning finger. 'You've been given--or given yourself--a gift, lad. You have the chance to rewrite some of what you are, without changing who you are. You have the chance to make Nibar even better than he was before. To be better able to assist his friends. To halt the collapse of the walls of reality. To be more true to yourself. That's as powerful as magic you could cast, boy.'
He looked down at his feet, struggling to find something to say. He could only manage, 'Thanks, Agonis. You've given me a lot to think about. I'll do my best to sort through it.'
The old man chuckled. 'Well, don't do it tonight. With the trek to see this "fury" of fire or whoever it is, you'll want your mind clear and free of distractions. Do the introspection afterwards. And speaking of,' he said, rising to his feet, 'I think my time for today is probably almost used up. And you need your rest. You're likely to have a long day tomorrow.'