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I had absorbed the 'good' incarnation, but he had been but an echo of my first incarnation, and doubtless not all of that incarnation's memories had survived. But I had a record from the first incarnation, the sensory stone journal I had found for Pharod. It was time to make use of it.
As I held the sphere up this time and examined it, I felt the memories of the first of my incarnations stirring within me, but it was not an insistent or driving force - it was calm, like the thoughts of a man walking across a great distance to speak to a friend he hadn't seen in ages. As I felt his presence in my mind, I saw the sphere in a different light - not as ugly, or hideous, but as something precious, like a newborn child - the sphere was the repository of my last moments, before I met Ravel on the Gray Waste and asked the impossible of her.
I knew why I asked her. And I knew that all I needed to do was touch the surface of the sphere with both hands and *feel* regret, and the stone would open itself to me.
The sphere wrinkled in my hands, the skin of the sphere peeling away into tears and turning into a rain of bronze that encircled me. Each droplet, each fragment that entered me, I felt a new memory stirring, a lost love, a forgotten pain, an ache of loss - and with it, came the great pressure of regret, regret of careless actions, the regret of suffering, regret of war, regret of death, and I felt my mind begin *buckling* from the pressure - so MUCH, all at once, so much damage done to others... so much so an entire FORTRESS might be built from such pain.
And suddenly, through the torrent of regrets, I felt the first incarnation again. His hand, invisible and weightless, was upon my shoulder, steadying me. He didn't speak, but with his touch, I suddenly remembered my name.
...and it was such a *simple* thing, not at all what I thought it might be, and I felt myself suddenly comforted. In knowing my name, my true name, I knew that I had gained back perhaps the most important part of myself. In knowing my name, I knew myself, and I knew, now, there was very little I could not do. The first incarnation's hand was gone from my shoulder, and he was watching me with a slight smile.
"That was my name all along? But if I was-"
The first incarnation held his finger to his lips, silencing me. He nodded at the symbol on my arm, as if indicating I should make use of it.
The symbol - the symbol of Torment - seemed brittle somehow, as if it was only barely holding itself to my skin. Unconsciously, I reached out and peeled it from my arm. It gave way with a slight resistance, like pulling off a scab. As I held the symbol, I knew I could harness its power. Holding it and invoking its power would summon all the pain and suffering from my past incarnations upon my foes. It no longer ruled me.
"I no longer wear the symbol. Does that mean...?" As I was halfway through my question, I realized there was a heavy silence within my mind -- I could no longer feel the presence of the first incarnation within me.
I had faced three of my incarnations in this room. Following Deionarra's prophecy, I had also already faced shades of evil and good. I needed only to confront the shade of neutrality, the keeper of this fortress, to complete my quest. Curious, I thought to myself, how these two examples of the rule of three had dominated my journey.
I do not know how long I sat on the slab at the center of my prison, lost in thought, but when I became conscious of my surroundings again I was no longer alone. Before me was the ghostly form of Deionarra; her spectral gown seemed stirred by some ethereal breeze. Her eyes rested on mine, and I felt a strange, disjointed sensation, as if I was looking at several pairs of eyes at once.
"My Love, at last I have *found* you... I searched for you after you were divided by the crystal - this Fortress spans hundreds of miles, and I feared you were lost to me." Her ghostly eyes took my measure, searching my body for new wounds. "Are you well?"
"I think so - the crystal divided me, but I am one again. Now I am trapped here, however."
"I suspect trapping you here was the crystal's true purpose. But it poses no barrier for one such as I." She closed her eyes. "Much do my eyes see, and the halls of this Fortress are well known to me. If you are trapped here, my Love, I shall see to it you are set free. Where is it you wish to go?"
"I wish to speak to you for a moment, and tell you how you died... and why." I finally knew the full truth of how Deionarra had come here. I had to tell her, even if the revelation were to cut off my only means of escape from my prison.
"What are you speaking of?"
"When I brought you to this Fortress, it was my intention that you die here. I needed someone to remain behind so that they would serve as a link to this place. I knew because you loved me so much, that your love would stave off death and allow you to become a spirit. And that is why you suffer now." Deionarra's face was a mask as I spoke the words.
"I am sorry, Deionarra."
"Do you *love* me? If you say yes, my Love, then nothing that has happened matters."
"Though I did not know you at first, I have come to love you. Your suffering has become mine, and I have found that I will do what I can to help you." This was the truth, just as it was true that I had come to love both Annah and Fall-From-Grace.
"Then I will aid you, my Love. Tell me how I can help you, and I shall do it."
"I am trapped here. Can you help me escape?"
"If you are trapped here, my Love, I shall see to it you are set free. Where is it you wish to go?"
"I wish to rejoin my friends."
"As you wish, My Love." She stretched out her hand. "Touch my hand, and the walls of this Fortress shall be walls no more." I touched her hand, and suddenly the walls around me faded to mist, then were gone. I was suddenly standing somewhere else, somewhere on the top of the fortress. I looked over knife-edged battlements, staring into the nothingness of the negative material plane. I turned back to Deionarra, but she was already fading. I was able to hear her voice, however, even after she had disappeared from view.
"I forgive what you have done. I shall wait for you in
death's halls, My Love." It was all too likely the confrontation
I was seeking would have me joining her very soon.
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