I’m not sure I was just having this dream. My dream had a lot more alcohol and cheeky women. Everything looks emerald. There’s pillars of emerald where I just had the dancing poles installed. That man in the throne, at the far end of the room, is where I had the “Hammer of Torag”, a forty-foot long ale-slip-n’-slide, installed. But looking at this place, it’s a lot familiar. Not like my usual “Alduin’s Pleasure Palace” dream. Like my, “Ah shit my rock addiction is kicking in” dream. I dun’t see the other gem-men though. Oh, and Salvo’s here: definitely not at my pleasure palace. That’d be awkward.
That man on the throne… it’s that ragged man from the other night. His glare is giving me that same feeling of dread from before. His voice booms, echoes everywhere throughout this place. He says his name is Illoquix. He came here through space on the asteroid, and lives in the gems… or something like that. Claims to be a destroyer of civilizations, planets, and he’s working for something bigger. I have a hard time believing that from someone with the break-in skills of a panty thief, but if he’s lying he has one hell of a poker face. He has some kind of interest in Whitt… he offered Alduin and I a deal. Bring him Whitt, and he would make us gods before this planet was destroyed. Claimed that the gems had ‘analyzed’ us, and he knew both of our thoughts and desires. Can’t believe that, cause then he’d known that I’d never give him Whitt.
Wonder if he can read my thoughts now. I’m sleeping with one of those gems on… jeez I’ve fucked us again somehow, I’m sure… but if he can, he knows I don’t want to. By Turag though, that’s a tempting offer… anything I want. I could have my old friends back. My hair back. My life back. I wouldn’t be the piss-poor drunk in the bar, surely, Garthund would be. All would be right in the world. But I couldn’t let them see me like this… and I couldn’t cross my friends like that neither. World kept spinning when they died, as much as I hate to say it. So I’ll just have to leave my friends buried. I flipped him off again, woke up in my bed.
Seemed like a dream. It was. But that’s the terrifying thing. My pillow-flask is empty, but, I keep a spare under the candlestick, and another spare tied to the bedframe under where I sleep. I grabbed the candlestick, turned it over, and uncorked the bottom. I took a deep swig before I went and got my actual flask from my backpack. By the time I had uncorked it, Salvo broke in. He looked like he’d been to my pleasure palace and I tickled him funny. That is to say, upset.
Judging by Alduin’s night drinking the dream was real. I wanted to ask for a sip, but I didn’t want to wake up with a massive hangover. I thought the decision should be an easy one, so I pried a bit. Asked him what his “great desires” were. Said he just wanted to “kill, drink, and fuck.” Every time I see him he’s doing at least two of those things, but it doesn’t seem to make him any happier. Of course he asked the same in return. Despite that I thought he would laugh at me, I told him the truth. I want to have a family, a wife and kids. Lots of kids. The caravan can’t follow me onto an island, so Absalom is my best bet for a home. I’m just trying to make it a safe one. He said I had a family already. I didn’t pick up on what he meant, and I hope that didn’t piss him off. What we all have together, though nice, just isn’t the same.
It struck me that if Illoquix could invade our dreams because we touched the gems, he probably made the same offer to others in the city. We rushed to Whitt’s room.
Looking inside, she wasn’t there. That was like a heart attack, and I turned to Salvo instantly. He looked just about as worried as I did. I think we both died for a moment, before we realized that of all people to go missing, Whitt was perhaps the best… next to Salvo. She’s survivable and smart and I’ve got a lot of faith in her. So we did the first thing we could, rally the troops. Ishmael wouldn’t get the fuck out of bed, but I went to my wife’s chambers. Her gold clad, ivory door, smelling of roses and forests. I opened the door, a harp struck as a cacophony of angels descended from the heavens. Her beautiful, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long hair and it’s god-forsaken cowbells of infinite decibels awaited us in her chamber. From somewhere behind the death knells and hair, I heard “Is that you Alduin, my husband?” But then for realsies, she appeared at the door after we beat it enough. I told her what was up, and Salvo split up from us while we went and asked the manor guard’s questions. They hadn’t seen shit but I asked them to be on high alert. We met up with Salvo, thought, “Oh yeah she has a family”, and gave pursuit.
From what I could tell Whitt had climbed out of her room, alone, and snuck over the manor’s wall. She seems to have a penchant for this kind of thing, and she couldn’t have done it at a worse time. We figured her father might have a clue where she sneaks off to at night. As we left, Ophelia got pretty grated when Alduin started the whole “wife” thing. I wonder if it bothers her because she thinks he’s teasing her or because she knows he’s not.
When we got to Whitt’s house, the door was left ajar. I snuck inside, and found Bloody Barbers casing the joint. You’d think experienced brigands would be less sloppy with their B&Es, eh? Figuring that Whitt might be hiding somewhere in the house, I got the jump on one of them, hoping the fight would cause a distraction. The Barber’s must have sent their best mooks; unlike the last, these had a semblance of training and tactics. I was worried that just the three of us might not be enough. But slowly we took them out, until just their wizard was left. Alduin was toying with him, pulling his hood over his head and his pants to his knees. He surrendered, out of what I assume was pure embarrassment. He said they were hired by some Desnan Priest to kidnap Whitt and take her to a warehouse at the docks. Like I thought, others close to the gems had their minds invaded by Illoquix as well. All I can think about is that I brought the gems into the city, sold them, gave them to the priests. I have a hand in all of this… and I have no idea how I’m going to make it right.
We found no sign of Whitt in her house, nor her father or Shamus. Something must’ve tipped Whitt off, and she came here to bring them somewhere safe. But… why wouldn’t she come to us? Does she not trust us? Does she not trust me? Arlington had commented on my… “talents”, insinuating I was going to steal from his shop. Maybe she thinks I’m just a thief, too.
Ended up letting that wizardy type keep his gold and leave. It’s rare having someone surrender, refreshing even… hope the group sees I’m more than just a bloody hammer. We argued for a bit about our plan and moved to the warehouse though. We spotted some guy through a window… a Desnan priest, like we suspected. But we didn’t really have much going for us in light of plans, so, I did what I always do best. Improvised.
For some reason the best we could come up with was pretend Ophelia was Whitt, have her use her gloves of a million fabrics or whatever the fuck they are to dress like her, and I would smear crap on my face and pretend to be a bounty hunter. She hopped up on my shoulder (just like our wedding day. I still remember the doves, the bells, the seraphs descending. The sunlight [as per the spell] radiating off of her face as I walked down the aisle. Whitt was crying) and I carried her to the door. I knocked, said I had her, they let us in. They’ve probably never even seen her.
That Desnan was a hard bargainer… and I had to pull some stuff out my ass too. He was cold, callous, pretty uncharacteristically. I threatened to kill Whitt if he didn’t pay us, had to put my boot on my wife’s head, much to my dismay. He didn’t even flinch. That was, in the least, unnerving, even for me. I started making a slow-walk out after I failed to get any gold, but I turned. A green light caught my eye, and I saw my dove in danger. My heart sank and I yelled out panic word, “So you know, I found her at the FOUNTAIN”. I didn’t even notice Salvo on him until then.