i. In Service of Nightmare

I write these words clumsily, for the motion of the boat disturbs that of my quill. We are mere days away now from Sword’s Coast, perhaps the most renowned destination in all of Faerûn. There is no shortage of passengers who booked passage with me. Some surely seek it for adventure. Others might seek fame, some others for riches.

But I, I seek it in service of nightmare.

I carry upon my person a formal letter of recommendation, gifted by my latest employer. (It was taken down, of course, while he was still in control of his faculties.) His signature might be unfamiliar; but the script, diction, and surplus of official seals should win me good standing with any scribe, scrivener, or copyist I so choose.

From there, I may continue my forays into the art and soul of the Sword Coast’s rich histories–and the shadows waiting in its heart.

I beseeched my Patroness for truth, and it is truth she has granted me. The minds of my fellows opened themselves unto me, seeming like clumsy evening plays at the local theater. Crude caricatures danced in the minds of men and women, boorish approximations of what lay before them. My first lesson was hence this: truth (or what little we might perceive of it) lies not in our waking minds.

For see, just there! There now goes one devoted wife, mother of three sons, and faithful mate to the man she married so many years before. But his eyes speak without words, and his sighs carry the sound of distant thoughts. His gaze lingers just a little too long on the milkmaid, and his face relaxes when the girl is mentioned. But no; such a suspicion is too brutal for the mother’s mind, and she banishes it to where such thoughts can uneasily lie.

There too, goes a man who has just summoned the doctor. His favorite daughter has taken ill again, a poor turn after this week’s cold rain. His friends assuage his fears. Fevers are common this time of season, and your daughter has been sick oft before. Why, by this time next week, she’ll surely be tossing hay again, just as healthy and hale as her old man! Just wait and see! Yet behind his eyes lurks the terror he dares not speak; that this will be the last time his daughter takes to bed.

Some truths are simply too harsh, too maddening, or too alien for the fragile puppet plays of our mind. Those who fully grasp them are in turn gripped, like doomed moths in the flame. No, we are much safer in shadow; and that which we can not face (or dare not face) is cast out of the light.

But the seeds of truth do not lie fallow. They take root in that soil that is darkest, richest, and least tended. And when the cold night winds blow, when the gates of the soul are the least guarded, then–only then do they emerge. Only then do they creep forth from their unguarded sepulchers to play havoc across the canvas of our minds.

If it is truth I ultimately seek, then it is here that I will search–within the quaking hearts of men and women. It is here that I will plant the seeds of suspicion, water them with the tears of fear, and harvest then the fruits of terror.

The fruit of knowledge shall be a rich fruit. And the Sword Coast shall be my fertile soil.

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