I cannot believe what has transpired, but the evidence suggests I must. Therefore, I shall transcribe recent events here to affirm their reality. Perhaps then I can assess my situation with a full perspective, though I can only imagine one outcome regardless of how thoroughly I consider my potential courses of action.
To begin at the beginning, I found time to return home after the Sanguine Order’s victory over the vampire Alistaire. As I made my way into the upper city, I noticed anomalous behavior. There were fewer guards than expected, and many well-lit areas had been dimmed. It seemed likely that these facts - combined with the scent of sweat and fear in the air - were more likely connected than not. I was confident, however, and moved plainly to Luima’s chambers. I had brought her a simple necklace; no great ornament for a lady of her station, but I hoped it would remind her of times we shared before the demons as I wandered Osterra.
I did not have a chance to present her this gift, however, as screams from her quarters connected my previous notes into a simple truth: my sister was being attacked. I rushed through the corridors of the keep with sword in hand and crashed through the sealed doors to her room at full speed. Thankfully, the intruders were not expecting my interference. The doors, while locked, had not been barred to prevent forced entry. My arrival knocked one of the robed figures within Luima’s room to the ground. An upward stroke ended his life and raised my sword to a high guard in a single motion. I leaned back to prepare a lunge, but as I did so, the intruders leapt from the window to their deaths rather than be captured or slain in combat. Luima collapsed to the floor, and after confirming she was uninjured I called for the guards. The Captain of Kair’s city guard Willem rushed into the room with sword drawn, but clearly groggy.
In retrospect, perhaps this was an act
It was determined by Lord Blackrose, at my suggestion, that we should throw a feast to celebrate Luima to spite the kidnappers. Additionally, I would invite a handful of Outlanders with whom I had contact during my travels. With only the four of us in the know, Luima was to be sequestered in the Lord and Lady’s chambers in secret and her role at the party to be assumed by Jay Cindersky, an outlander whose background and appearance lent perfectly to this plan. She would be paraded about in public sight at an indefensible location - a prime opportunity for a kidnapping. And, when the kidnappers returned to life and chose to strike - prepared for my presence - they would be caught off guard by a handful of trained warriors and an armed body double who knew their intent.
For the first time, the Gardens of Kair were opened to outlanders. A feast was had, much to the chagrin of my Lord Father, and things were suspiciously calm. After the feast, a number of competitions were had. As the duelist’s tourney ended, a haggard guardsman entered the party and pleaded for assistance in slaying a creature attacking farms at the city’s edge. We did not expect the betrayal of our guards, and as such the outlanders rallied to slay the creature with the Lord’s blessing. No sooner than they had departed, however, the kidnappers struck! I feigned defeat after receiving minor wounds, but given the lapse in my memory I was slain in my act by a zealous member of this cult.
The outlanders returned triumphant from their excursion, but found chaos upon their return. A trio of dryads, sent on behalf of the Grove, had fortunately transformed into trees to survive the attack and sent the outlanders in pursuit of my ‘sister.’ They followed Jay’s trail to a sewer entrance, where the body of Captain Willem lay dead. Jay explained that the kidnappers were guardsmen in disguise, following their captain in a coup d’etat. Jay had killed Willem with a hidden dagger before concealing herself nearby.
As they prepared to return, however, the outlanders spotted some familiar tracks; the monster they had killed was an abomination from another world, a mass of eyes and mouths and tentacles oozing slime. That same slime led back into the sewer entrance. Following the tunnels beneath Kair led them to a broken wall into the dungeon beneath the keep, and a chamber of which I will not speak.
When Willem, who is no longer captain for obvious reasons, returned from the grave, he chose to speak with them in the hopes it would buy his release. He told them that the chamber in which they stood was the secret of House Blackrose. He told them that generation after generation, there were only two members of the House. As I was brought into the chamber to speak with Willem, he told them that the eyes of House Blackrose never changed, because they used otherworldly magic to steal the bodies of their children and extend their own lives. He revealed that this chamber was the source of their power, and had magic far beyond their horrific immortality. And he spoke the truth.
The paintings I have seen all my life shared the same gaze. Generation after generation for over three centuries, the eyes have always been the same. The eyes of Lord Leofric and Lady Meryld of House Blackrose. Willem learned this secret from his father, who served House Blackrose before his son. The parents had been the same, but the children were vibrant and youthful. Then, one day, the parents disappeared and the children became calm and deliberate. As if they had become their parents.
Willem dedicated his life to discovering the truth behind House Blackrose, and rose to Captain of the Guard through his dedication. He searched beneath the keep until he found the chamber containing that which I am loathe to describe: the Black Rose Altar.
I said above I would not describe this accursed thing, but in case its ilk should be discovered elsewhere, I will make plain what I saw. In the center of a chamber, lit only by what we could bring, sat a stone circle. It was raised to just below my waist, and within it sat two concentric circles, each smaller and lower than the outer ring. Upon the slate-grey surfaces were layers of congealed blood. I do not know how many souls were offered to this abomination, but there was more deeply layered blood than I have ever seen before. In the innermost circle, a flat stone at the bottom, there was a set of runes carved upon the stone. They radiated foul magics, and between them lay the lines of a rose, painted black upon the grey stone.
I killed Willem where he stood when he had explained the truth. It helped nothing, but I don’t regret it. What does that say about me? And why did they choose me? I was told my parents died when I was young, but should they not have returned soon after? Why were they different? Why was it their time, and not anyone else’s?
I know the answer. I know all the answers to all these questions, and I wrote this entry to put it to paper where I can’t hide from it any longer. My parents were either murdered by Leofric and Meryld, or they were sacrificed by them. The reason other cities reacted differently when battles to the death were at hand is because they aren’t bound to immortality the way I am. The way we are. Perhaps the outlanders are right, and it’s the Everwar that keeps us returning to this world. It would explain the vampires, the shadows, the undead that witless necromancer creates. Which means I’ve ended more lives than I can fathom. I’ve become accustomed to death, because for me it’s no more than a momentary abatement of reality.
What if we don’t remember our deaths because whatever gods bring us back don’t want us to turn and flee at the prospect of dying again?
I was stolen by House Blackrose to be Leofric’s next vessel. My sister was to be Meryld’s. Now she and her parents are missing. I will not allow it. The people of Kair, of all Osterra, must know the evil that hid in their midst. Luima must be set free from her accursed fate.
House Blackrose made me who I am. I was so desperate to earn what they’d given me. I became a killer on their behalf. Swallowed half-truths eagerly, without question, all to please a pair of monsters. But that’s okay. It’s all fine.
Because the Sanguine Order kills monsters.