Enderal:The Life of Torgan Whispertongue
The man's lifeless body laid next to my feet. The faint light of the moon gleamed silvery and eerily in the deep red puddle underneath him.
An odd feeling of numbness hit me the moment in which the dark wafts of mist in my head dispersed. It somewhat equaled the paralysis one feels when standing in front of the love of one's life and being unable to move a single muscle, due to over-excitement. It's just that this numbness was more brutal, more ravenous, and all-consuming.
I vaguely remember how my view slowly wandered down my arm. In my hand I held a bloody, fist-sized stone. Pieces of what had been beaten out of that young man's head were still sticking to it. And once more a feeling of numbness hit me. In that moment I had lost all memories of what had transpired just a bit earlier. Certainly I've gotten my memory back by now, but even years after that event I was still searching for it futilely.
This man was dead, stone-dead, as dead as possible, even deader than a Lost One, though those creatures nonetheless walk the earth even in their state. There wasn't a soul in sight in the whole park. No oddity, considering the late hour. The weight of the bloody stone in my hands seemed to get heavier and heavier the more the horrifying truth entered my mind. Soon it was so heavy that I found it impossible to hold onto it. I had to let go of the stone. Was it possible? I was a murderer?
The facts supported no other conclusion, and although my reasoning was clouded greatly by the Glimmercapdust, I could still arrive at that conclusion in my delirium. I, Torgan Whispertongue, whose dream it once was to reach for the stars, to accomplish what nobody had ever done before, was a killer. I went too far, to the edge of the world and beyond it, inside the most shady ravines and recesses of Vyn. Following the numbness, a wave of pure panic struck me. They would pursue me. They would imprison me — or even worse, hang me. That would serve me right. I could go nowhere. My love, Maressa, my friends, everybody I knew turned away from me.
In hindsight I have to forgive the past me the misconduct he committed. Long before the murder, I had deviated from my right path. I had tried to reach for the stars, but had missed them and had fallen. The void I fell into stuck to me like an oppressive shadow. If a man forgets why he was born he loses his life's meaning. Much worse befell me after that incident, and it isn't easy to contemplate that now, years since I turned back to the one true and right path. My old bones never recovered from those dark times; however, I could leave those times behind me by writing them down.
Behold and see for yourself what transpired back then, with a righteous and observant eye.
My father was a man one couldn't often find throughout the world. For other children, worthy heroes or explorers were role models. For me it was my father, who was my best friend, my mentor, and even half my soul. He loved his little son with the fiery hair, his “spark.” At times the books which he looked after were more important to him than the love of his wife, my mother Rochmea. But he never once neglected me. As a librarian he wasn't one of the wealthiest citizens of Ark, but he knew how to feed his family and had a way with saving money. He taught me the fine arts of reading and writing, the talents which separated a knowledgeable person from a mere peasant. His passion for the sciences and the analytics which aimed to research magic in all its facets aroused my desire to study these areas, even though they were eyed skeptically by the common people. As a child I had dreamed of becoming a member of the Holy Order, a man whocomprehends the secrets of the world and is respected. I wanted to get rid of my life as a mere nobody and become somebody of distinction.
What sheer irony of fate it was that struck down my father. In life, days may be good or ill. This illness though, I saw coming just once and it never left. It stayed. Before I had even seen the eighth year of my life, I had to witness how the books which he nourished and cherished became his bane. Between the yellowed pages of a weighty tome, an edition which he had bargain-hunted from a merchant and presented to my mother and myself with his head held high, a fungus had lodged itself. It infected him like a crawling parasite and drained him from the inside out. The death caused by this sort of fungus is so slow that you only realize it when it is too late. In my opinion it is one of the worst kinds of death, especially if you consider how it desiccated the face of my deceased father until his bare bones showed.
My Path consecration had some devastating and far-reaching consequences for my young self. How much I had hoped that Malphas would lead me on the Path of the Sublimes so that I would have at least a small chance of joining the Order. I was praying every night for this opportunity, in turn putting all my hope in the hands of our God. In the end the destiny he chose for me was entirely different. The same literate Path as my father's was intended for me. You may think that this is a logical consequence — a son inherits his father's path, that seems reasonable. For me it was the biggest possible disappointment. It was surpassed only by another dramatic experience in my childhood, one which mustn't be omitted here, as it was the cause of my inner corruption.
For a long time my body would convulse whenever I thought back to the following hour. In old age the intensity of such memories strongly dwindles, which is grounded in seeing the world through different eyes. An incredible impudence, nothing more, happened on that late, cold evening of arrival. My mother and I were having supper just when we heard somebody knocking at the door of our house. As my politeness demanded of me the, albeit small, man of the house, I got up and opened the door. A tall, haggard man in red garb stood in front of me. He was Jagar Sevenstroke, according to his Path a priest in the temple which my family and I visited often. He was often called the father of the weak and the manufacturers, as he cared the most about the concerns of those who needed the most help. To me it always seemed as if he wore a mask above his skinny, skull-like face, which hid his real appearance. Jagar Sevenstroke held a great reputation everywhere in Ark, but even more so in our neighborhood. He had supported my mother when she was grief-stricken over her husband's death. I had never liked him despite all these arguments for his goodwill. There are only a few sentences that he spoke which I can still remember clearly. The first one was his greeting:
“Well Torgan, my little spark, will you let me come inside so that my fragile body doesn't freeze any further in the winter's cold?” he asked me, crouching slightly and with exaggerated friendliness.
I would have loved to close the door, but my mother invited our gracious priest into our house, and she even chided me with a fierce smack for my hesitation. The priest kept us company for supper. I barely listened to his sharp tongue, but I felt as if I could see something terrifying in his eyes while he was speaking to my mother. A hidden and glistening greed. Under the pretext of him asking after our well-being, because my family was especially important to him, my mother quickly forgot all of her distrust and precaution. He directed the conversation towards my father while we ate. My mother always kept me out of everything concerning her dead husband, so she discreetly but at the same time firmly sent me out of the room. I didn't have fiery hair the color of a rutterkin for no reason, as the folk saying goes. While standing in the dark hallway, I further listened in on the conversation through the thin door crack.
For a good while it seemed to me as if he dealt with my mother in an underhanded manner. When she tried to give him another ladle of stew it happened. With a pounding heart I saw how the priest stood up from his chair and walked behind my mother. Disaster was imminent. As she turned around she became frightened by the short distance between them. She gave him the bowl. He, however, immediately put it down on the table.
“You are beautiful Mydame. Why aren't you searching for a new man to be at your side? I am sure that every gentleman would love to be there,” that's roughly how he expressed his desire for her. He tried to caress her face but she eluded his advances. And suddenly the priest's failed attempt turned serious. He lunged out with his bony hand and beat her down. The animal, his true face, revealed itself. He dropped all pretense. I witnessed it when he bent over her while she was holding her cheek, when he pressed her down and raised her dress with his wrinkled, old hands. With coarse hands, he forced his will on her. There was more strength in his old hands than one would think. My mother screamed, however she couldn't get free. There are numerous stories telling about how young heroes would attack the man in this same situation and at the same age as myself to impede his inten. I was too scared. Cowardice is a trait of mine which has always come into the picture at the worst of times. Through the thin door crack I watched how the priest's robe was unveiled. My eyelids closed nearly by themselves, as if my body wanted to prevent my soul from breaking after witnessing the following scene. Nevertheless, I heard every sensual grunt of the priest and every pained groan of my mother. After a while he suddenly paused in his activities. I realized that only by the change of the background noise.
I thought that the nightmare had finally come to an end and peeped through my half-closed eyes. Goosebumps covered my whole body. The skull-like face of Jagar Sevenstroke was looking down on me through the door crack. He viewed me from above, the crouching boy whose mother he had just raped. A crooked smile escaped his grimace.
“Be a good boy and keep on following your Path, then Malphas will have a good impression of you,” he said and closed the door.
He left me alone in the darkness of that hallway. His face was burned into my mind and left extensive scars there. To this day I remember that heretic's face better than my father's, that liar, that traitor of the benevolent Malphas. He should burn in the Sunfire for his sins, especially as my mother certainly wasn't the first woman he exploited in that way. My mother never spoke about that occurrence. She bore the pain silently. One couldn't prosecute a priest, especially one with such an impeccable reputation as Jagar Sevenstroke had, unless one belonged to a high Path and was able to exert a great influence on the clergy. She kept silent. When she did that, a fire started burning in me. It was just a little flame, a spark which came from the embers that was lit by my Path consecration and the disgraceful deed of an envoy of Malphas. Just a wisp of wind or a weak puff would have been enough to extinguish it. However, it was ignited and would determine the course of my life. The flame which was able to melt the chains of my incarcerated will.
The flame of freedom.
My mother became seriously ill. Whether or not this was grounded in the heartache she had suffered from is something I do not know. At that time I felt certain that it had to do with the priest. Some kind of monkey business was at work. Her condition deteriorated so quickly that an apothecarius had to take care of her, as I didn't have enough time to do so in addition to my occupation.
The work of a librarian was rather dull and dry. I was pining for more, for my vocation. I studied the sciences, like my father once did together with me, on the quiet and tried to do several easy exercises in magic, which all ended in failure due to my lack of talent. I dreamt about my noble aims, used hours of sorting books for imagining how nice it would be if I could call myself a member of the Holy Order. But that was an impossible dream of mine as my Path held me to where I belonged. Maybe you know the feeling — when you are in a much too tight room, shaft, or something similar and you can't get enough air to breathe.
Or if a much too tight shirt takes your breath away — ladies especially should be familiar with the issue of a too tightly laced corset. This was the sentiment I had towards my Path. It held me captive and imprisoned my will.
Despite spending most of my time in private, I found my first and only love in Maressa Greytrue. I would give anything to see her again nowadays. Her laugh was similar to a sunrise above the Red Ocean…but that belongs to another, happier part of my life, one which I won't give any place to in this story. She encouraged me to take my clever experiments and my knowledge to a magister who should acknowledge my talent. But no matter what I tried — whether I ran after them or stalked their houses like a madman — no magister wanted to hear me out or to see what I had to show them. If they would have done so I was confident that they would have received me with open arms.
My Path was a prison. The tightness locked me up more and more and I wanted to escape from it. I wanted to break out. At the same time I was at odds with myself and my ideals. It was obvious to my young self that my faith in the Path was misled.
My scientific studies now became social studies. I observed the Path's oppression in all of its extremes: the workers in the tar pit and the Sublimes who lacked nothing. Heat, iron, sweat, blood, and quite often even death by overworking awaited an ordinary man in the tar pit's tunnels. In total contrast were the aristocracy and the Sublimes, who lived high off the hog. I made note of what I saw, especially how the Sublimes treated the Manufacturers when both Paths crossed.
A tremendous coincidence called my attention to a meeting of young citizens which took place in the Undercity. This kind of shady organization obviously wasn't commonly known, but every so often one could find propaganda posters, which were overlooked on the building's walls, even by the attentive guards. One of those fell into my hands and it didn't take long until a nameless informant told me of the secret gathering place.
It was certainly exciting for me with my calm temper to be pulled into such company. Meetings in chambers located underground, with people whose names I didn't know, had never belonged to my everyday activities before. On my way I made sure that I wasn't being followed and entered the aggregation's venue, an abandoned shack in the chaos of the dark Undercity. As our model served Ines Dineja, who was the leader of the Blood Moon Riots, the name of our organization became “The Blood Moon Lodge.” I was feeling accepted in the Lodge's ranks. Here I could discuss with other people topics which were shunned in public, about which no prudent Endralean would gossip so viciously. There were even heated discussions with kindred spirits about solutions to political and religious problems.
Although some of the idealists' views seemed too harsh and militant to me, I got myself involved with the Blood Moon Lodge. Their leader, Quindros Aslodar, a young and dynamic man, had spoken of a night which we would never forget, prior to one of the following meetings. And it was just as he said. He distributed Glimmercapdust among the idealists, myself included. I had knowledge of the droga's destructive nature and how many poor souls it had already taken to their graves. Therefore I hesitated. Nevertheless I wanted to stay a member of the Blood Moon Lodge, so I overcame my rationality — and crossed a line that would change my life for years to come. With a fiery speech, Quindros heralded the start of the “Night of Disentanglement” which was to lead us into “total freedom” — he told us so in his inferno of words.
Have you ever consumed Glimmercapdust? What I can tell you about this droga is that it is strong enough to make you forget how it tasted or smelled after the intoxication subsides. It takes full effect quickly, and in no time at all reduces you into an uncontrollable lump of flesh, unable to distinguish between left and right. To compare it to an alcoholic stupor would be in no way adequate.
Quindros, in his amplified state of mind, shooed us out of the Fallow's meeting place into the Undercity. I lost my fellow campaigners in the chaos before my eyes. My world became distorted while I was stumbling down the dark roads. Human faces turned into the grisly jaws of monsters, preparing to devour me. I saw demons and Lost Ones surrounding me. Jugglers danced hand in hand with myrads. The prostitutes in front of the Silver Cloud didn't look at me with seductive eyes, but instead wore the ugly and hollowed heads of Vatyrs. When they tried to solicit me, I crawled, rushed, and struggled my way into an empty alley where I didn't see any demonic grimaces, but instead a thousand staring eyes on the walls.
At the end of this furious night's intoxication, I woke up in a haystack with a throbbing head. In that moment, in which I was staggering through the roads to the exit of the Undercity with a face as white as a sheet, just like a drunk, I had yet to understand that I had changed. The ritual was successful. I was free. I had attained absolute freedom and was successful in cutting off Malphas and his restrictive path.
Now I was … a Pathless One.
What being pathless entails cannot be known by those who have never experienced it for themselves. Contrary to expectations you don't feel the joy of being freed from your chains, as one might have assumed in my case. It means fear. It means a constant dread. It means a feeling of forsakenness, which can be eased neither by love nor friendship. Nobody can survive pathless, and if someone claims the opposite they are the biggest liar in all of Vyn.
My mother died of her illness and I lost Maressa as I used most of my time to consume drogae. No sane woman loves such a man who is lost in those. Due to my addiction, the taxmen took my parents' house into their custody. My money ran through my hands like sand. Without any means of payment, there was no place for me in the Uppercity anymore.
The Blood Moon Lodge slowly perished due to its ideals. Its members shared my fate: In becoming pathless they had lost their meaning inlife. Quindros Aslodar and some of the remaining members ventured into recklessness — painting curses onto the Temple's walls — and were hung for it.
The muck of Leorans soon stuck to the soles of my shoes as an unremovable companion. Stench and rot plagued my body. My teeth became brittle, and the skin peeled off my bones. I drowned my worries and hopelessness in alcohol. The final remnants of my self-esteem dwindled. The urge to leave my Path had spelled my ruin. Now I suddenly realized that the restrictions of the Path were nothing in comparison to the restrictions of utter freedom. The latter was vastly more overwhelming even though you won't be able to understand it, as you have never felt the same freedom as I have. Bare, merciless freedom can't be tamed. Especially if you are the same weakling as I was and am. If I would have at least had a Path, a firm purpose which I could have adhered to, this avalanche of mischief most likely would never have been set off.
There aren't many happy memories remaining from that time. My daily routine while being Pathless was waking up, taking drogae so I could while away the day, eating any rubbish I could find from the Undercity's streets, and boozing in the evening so that I could sleep. All semblance of organization disappeared from my life. Malphas' pointing and reprimanding hand didn't watch over me anymore. In the Undercity one can't distinguish between night and day, as there is neither sun nor fresh wind. Hence I couldn't say which month or time of day it was as I walked around without rest or aim, as I often did. I was struggling along, holding onto the walls of houses so that I didn't keel over. A band of muggers — no rare phenomena — caught sight of this easy prey and seized their chance. They beat the living daylights out of me only to realize that all they could take off of me was a pouch of Glimmercapdust. Guffawing, they left me lying in a muddy puddle, wounded and bleeding. My limbs hurt, but I managed to crawl forward. Near me a bard was belting out the song of the “Pathless Wanderer.” Scraps of the song accompanied me as I went crawling through the mud. I drug myself into an old masonry which had been forsaken long ago, and was a hidden entrance to the Undercity's catacombs. Rats were gnawing at my body.
Then I saw it in front of me clearly: a pitch-black figure without any discernible facial features. It was slim and had wiry limbs. Dark, smoldering clouds of smoke were flowing around its feet, obscuring them. Death had visited me in the form of the Black Guardian. I was closer to the Sun Fire than ever before. It just stood there staring at me, until it reached out one of its hands. It was waiting till the last breath of life would leave my body. It was certainly enticing to agree to its offer of ending this tragedy. But the last spark of will within me clung to my sorry life in this world. The Black Guardian had to go away empty-handed, and I continued on with my horrible destiny, knowing full well that I had merely delayed the hour of my final judgment.
The man's lifeless body laid next to my feet. The faint light of the moon gleamed silvery and eerily in the deep red puddle underneath him. An odd feeling of numbness hit me the moment in which the dark wafts of mist in my head dispersed.
I had killed him. I was a murderer.
The man had merely asked me whether I was alright, whether I needed help. A nice fellow who only has…had good in mind. In my intoxication it wasn't his face I saw in front of me, but rather the face of the priest who had raped my mother many years ago, the mask of Jagar Sevenstroke. The visage of the man who truly deserved to die.
As I saw the innocent, deceased man at my feet, the entirety of my previous life seized me. It caught up with me, like a shadow which becomes one with its body. I had the feeling that I wasn't part of a worldly providence anymore, but rather of a godly one: the creative means of a greater being.
I took the last option I had: I took to my heels and fled Ark. I left the city at dawn and forever turned my back on it and all which had happened therein. The withdrawal of the drogae left me sleepless for whole nights in the wilderness. It was similar to an odyssey of getting back up out from the deep abyss in which I had fallen. At its end, I was standing in front of a monastery's gates. Secluded, high on a rock and surrounded by the icy squalls of the Frostcliff Mountains, it stood before me, the last stage of my journey. Its gates received me like the saving arms of Malphas himself. I confessed that I had sinned and disregarded my Path. The benevolent head of the monastery redeemed me from my heartache and told me that Malphas wouldn't be angry as long as I heeded my sole, true Path from now on. Then I took a holy vow. I was received as a friar in the monastery. My long-lost, virtuous self was freed back onto the Path. My Pathless, dark side I have recorded in this book's lines. By writing this down, it shall be banned from the face of this world and shall never haunt me again.
Let me address you with some final words, before you lay aside this book: Each human needs their firm place in this world, be it merely as a miner in the depths, or as a Sublime's shoeshiner. My belief that the Path and religion around Malphas was misled was flawed, as I only knew the before and not the after. If you do not know such, it is always easy to speculate excessively about how to make the world a better place. The sole, true Path for us humans amounts to what we believe in with a firm dedication. Malphas helps us to illuminate the dark ways of life. His Paths are no restrictive prison. They are our home, our anchor in a stormy sea. I know Pathlessness, and that's why I can reveal this one truth to you and to all people searching for advice in our monastery, no matter what their circumstances are — “Those who are not honoring Malphas' Path will never catch sight of the world's light.”