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We appeared in a city, obviously not Sigil. There was a grey sky overhead, not the city curving back upon itself. The buildings around us were made from stone and rusted metal, and the dried, cracked mud of the street hinted at infrequent but heavy downpours. We stood next to a closed gate in a wall, and two bored guards were looking at us.
I turned to one of the guards, and asked where we were. He explained we were in Curst, which I recognized as a border town in the Outlands. When I asked what else he could tell me about the city, he replied in a laconic voice.
"We're under lockdown right now because of the plague. Don't know what's causing it, but we're quarantining sections of the town 'til we find out. You want something else?"
"I'd like to see the person in charge."
"What, the Burgher? He's in the administration building. Good luck getting to him, though. He don't see *anyone* these days. His mind's definitely going someplace else..." I wondered if there were any rumors about town of the deva Ravel had mentioned. Something like that would be hard to keep quiet.
"I'm looking for a deva."
"Then you're looking at the wrong end of the Great Ring, berk, because even if there were one here, you'd not be finding it. It'd be locked away like a miser's gold."
I turned away, to look for an inn. It looked to be getting on towards dusk here, and after the events in Ravel's maze I figured we all needed a rest. Fortunately, an inn was only a few steps away, and we soon obtained rooms for the night.
Once in the inn, I visited Dak'kon in his room. He and Annah were sharing it, but she was out scouting Curst, so I was able to talk to him alone.
I was actually more interested in the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon Dak'kon carried. I borrowed it from him, for I was interested in re-reading Zerthimon's sayings for any new insights. I looked at the stone, ready to unlock one of my previous readings.
As I examined the rings of the Second Circle, I found a strange link in the plate that mentioned the laboring of the Gith people to achieve the Rising. A new circle emerged from the link, and I unlocked it, pulling the plate forth so I could study it. I had, I realized, found a seventh circle, which I began to read.
"*Know* that the Rising of the People
against the *illithid* was a thing built upon many turnings. Many
were the People who lived and died under time's blade while the
Rising was shaped."
"The Rising was shaped upon a slow foundation. Steel was gathered so that it might mark *illithid* flesh. A means of *knowing* the movements of the *illithids* was established, at first weak and confused, then stronger, like a child finding its voice. When the movements were *known,* then the *illithids* were observed. In observing them, their ways of the mind were *known.*"
"When the ways of the *illithid* were *known,* many of the People were gathered and taught in secret the means to shield their minds, and the way to harness their will as weapons. They were taught the scripture of steel, and most importantly, they were given the *knowing* of freedom."
"These things were not learned quickly. The *knowing* of much of the ways was slow, and in all these things, time's weight fell upon all. From the *knowing* of one's reflection in a steel blade, to the *knowing* of submerging the will, to the *knowing* of seeing itself. All of these things and more the People built upon. In time, they came to *know* the whole."
Dak'kon had been silently watching me all this time. I told him I had found a seventh circle, and told him what it spoke of.
"It speaks of time as an ally, not as an enemy. It says that patience can sharpen even the smallest of efforts into a weapon that can strike the heart of an empire. Your victories may be small, but over time, a greater victory may be achieved." Dak'kon was silent for a moment, then he spoke.
"Will you make this Circle *known* to me?" I showed him how to unlock the seventh circle. There were also two plates containing githzerai 'spells' for us as well. Dak'kon looked at the plate I gave him, then shifted his gaze to me.
"There is much you have come to *know* of the Circle, and your *knowing* carries a greater weight than mine." Dak'kon matched my gaze. "*Know* that your path is mine, and it shall come to pass that as you *knew* the Way of Zerthimon from me, I shall *know* the Way of Zerthimon from you."
I studied the circle for more hidden texts. I suddenly become aware of a pattern in the way the links were formed... I hooked my fingers into the sides of the Circle, and unlocked a hidden segment, pulling the plate forth so I could study it.
"*Know* that a mind divided divides
the man. The will and the hand must be as one. In *knowing* the
self, one becomes strong."
"*Know* that if you *know* a course of action to be true in your heart, do not betray it because the path leads to hardship. *Know* that without suffering, the Rising would have never been, and the People would never have come to *know* themselves."
"*Know* that there is nothing in all the Worlds that can stand against unity. When all *know* a single purpose, when all hands are guided by one will, and all act with the same intent, the Planes themselves may be moved."
"A divided mind is one that does not *know* itself. When it is divided, it cleaves the body in two. When one has a single purpose, the body is strengthened. In *knowing* the self, grow strong."
I spoke to Dak'kon of what I had learned in this eighth circle.
"It speaks of focus and discipline... about how not *knowing* oneself can physically divide the man. It also speaks of the weaknesses that division causes. It seems to me that it tells one to not only *know* themselves and take strength from that, but that your focus can reveal weaknesses in your enemy." I then showed Dak'kon how to unlock the eighth circle, and again gained two plates with 'spells.' I looked into Dak'kon's black eyes.
"There are two plates here... we should both study them, you and I. I think when you *know* the Eighth Circle, perhaps then you will *know* Zerthimon's heart when he made the Pronouncement of Two Skies. His words were not those of the *illithids,* but of the People."
Dak'kon stared at the plates, his eyes flickering over the geometries upon them, then looked up and matched my gaze. His blade bent, shifted, until the shimmering I noticed before had become a silver glow. He seemed *stronger* somehow.
"*Know* that when death comes for you, *know* that I shall meet its blade with mine. *Know* that when all dies around you, *know* I shall live for your sake."
"When we die, Dak'kon, it shall be the same death. It shall be the Pronouncement of Two Deaths As One."
My discovery of the Eighth Circle brought Dak'kon to a greater understanding of himself and removed the *doubt* that had afflicted him. I literally watched him shed the coat of years when I told him of the Eighth Circle. In hearing my words, Dak'kon made the Pronouncement of Two Deaths As One, where he swore that when death came for me, he would meet its blade with his.
I felt as though I had finally accomplished something worthwhile
in this incarnation. Dak'kon was no longer the tormented slave;
although still bound by his words, I believe he now thought of
himself as my companion, and that he would have continued to travel
with me even without his oath.
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