The Demon Apostle by R. A. Salvatore





  Winter is settling on the land, Uncle Mather, but somehow, fittingly, it seems quiet and soft, as if the season will be gentle this year, as if Nature herself, like all the folk of the land, is in need of respite. I do not know how I recognize that this will prove true, but I cannot deny that which my ranger instincts tell me. Perhaps it is just that I am in need of respite, Uncle Mather, and I know that Pony is, as well. Perhaps my belief that the season will be gentle is no more than hopeful thinking.

  Still, Pony, Juraviel, and I heard few reports of fighting, even of any sightings of goblins, powries, or giants all during our return trip from St. -Mere-Abelle. Our journey north from Palmaris to the sister towns of Caer Tinella and Landsdown was without incident, with the only substantial garrison in the region being a contingent of Kingsmen sent from Ursal to reinforce Palmaris. They subsequently struck out north of the city to help secure the resettlement of the handful of communities in the region north of Palmaris farms.

  We have heard of few skirmishes in the weeks since our arrival; mostly it has been quiet, comfortably so. Tomas Gingerwart, who leads the three hundred daring settlers, and Shamus Kilronney, captain of the Kingsmen brigade, speak hopefully of a return to normalcy by the time winter relinquishes its grip on the land.

  A return to normalcy?

  They do not understand. Many have died, but many will be born to take their places; many homes have been burned to the ground, but they will be rebuilt. And so in the coming months the region may outwardly resemble what we once knew as our "normal" lives.

  But I have trod this road before, Uncle Mather, after the first sacking of Dundalis - before I came to know the Touel'alfar, before I found you - and I know the scars of this war will be lasting. It is in the hearts of the survivors where the mark of the demon dactyl will remain, in the grief of those who lost friends and family, the shock of those displaced, the pain of those who return to their former villages to find a blackened field. Though they do not yet know it, the very definition of what is normal has changed. The aftermath of war may be more painful than the fighting itself.

  Would I see the world the same way had the goblins not come to Dundalis those years ago? Not only was the course of my life changed by my rescue by the Touel'alfar and the training they gave me, but so were my perspectives on reality itself - my view of duty, of community, even of mortality, that greatest of human mysteries.

  And so these people are changed in ways they do not yet understand.

  My greatest concern is for Pony. The first destruction of Dundalis - of which she and I were the only survivors and in which her entire family was slaughtered - nearly broke her, sent her careening down a road that led her to Palmaris and a new life, one in which she could not even remember her tragic past. Only the love of her adoptive parents saw her through that dark time; and now they, too, have become victims of evil. Tragedy has visited Pony again.

  When we ran out of St. -Mere-Abelle, our mission there complete, our friend Bradwarden freed, she nearly turned around and went back. Had she re-entered that structure, gemstones in hand, she would have wreaked devastation before meeting her ultimate end.

  And she didn't care, Uncle Mather, for herself or for those she might have killed. So blind was her rage at the discovery of the mutilated corpses of her dead adoptive parents that she was ready to destroy St. - Mere-Abelle and all in it, to destroy all the world, I fear, in one mighty outpouring of rage.

  She has been quiet since we left the abbey and crossed the Masur Delaval into lands more familiar. Setting Belster O'Comely in place as the new proprietor of fellowship Way has helped to calm her, I believe, helped her to find a bit of "normalcy" in her life once more.

  But I fear for her and must watch over her.

  For myself, I know not what the lasting emotional effects of this latest struggle will be. As with all the survivors, I will grow from the losses, will find new insights as I contemplate the nearness of death. I hold few fears now. Somehow, amid all the carnage, I have found an inner peace. I know not what waits after death, Uncle Mather, and I know that I cannot know.

  A simple, foolish sentence that sounds, and yet it strikes my heart and soul as a profound revelation. What I understand now is the inevitability of death, whether through battle, disease, or simply age. And because I understand and accept that, I no longer fear life. How strange that is! It seems to me now that no problem is too daunting and no obstacle too imposing, for all that I have to do is remind myself that one day I will be no more, that my body is ultimately food for the worms, and I am not afraid to try. Many times recently I have been asked to stand before hundreds of men and women and explain to them the course I think we should all follow. And while to many people - to a younger Elbryan, perhaps - that would have been uncomfortable - fearing how the audience might view my words, fearing that I would do something foolish, like trip and fall down before them all - now that nervousness seems a petty, stupid thing.

  All I need do when so asked is to remind myself that one day it will not matter, that one day I will be gone from this world, that one day, centuries hence, someone might find my bones - and the embarrassing stumble, should it ever happen, seems like little to fear indeed.

  So the land is at peace, and Elbryan is at peace, and greater indeed will that peace become if I can find a way to calm Pony's emotional turmoil.
No Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]