Harnen

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Harnen
Race Burghal Gnome
Culture Winedotter
Class Rogue
Profession Locksmith
Religion Believer in Koar
Disposition Quiet
Demeanor Friendly
Flaw His past
Greatest Strength Stealth
Hobbies Picking boxes
Loyalties Friends of old

Appearance

He is short and appears to be senescent.
  He has bright light blue eyes and fair skin.
  He has short, messily combed and parted brown hair with tufts of grey behind the ears.
  He has a weathered face and a prominent nose.
  He has deep frown lines around his mouth and eyes.

Summary

Harnen has a checkered past. If you found the right Landing denizens, they might tell you that he used to be a kindly old gnome who picked boxes in town square central. They might tell you that he was most polite, calling everyone sir or miss, always minding his manners, and never hurting so much as a kobold.

However, if you speak to others of the Landing, they might describe Harnen as a thief, a pest and a knave. They'd say he always hides in the shadows, coming out only to pick a pocket or throw an occasional punch. Some would simply say he's out of his mind.

On the third hand, there is now more information about him, that one can read and decided for oneself. See below.

Recently

In Jastanos of 5109, Harnen passed out a book he'd written about his life. He has let it pass through many hands, allowing any who wished to read it. The text of the book can be found below.

History

(The below can be found in-game in book form, and as such can be considered in-game knowledge if your character might have come across this book)
  And a slightly better formatted version: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dd7xp69v_23f3h73jft

Harnen

(In Gnomish)   To my wonderful sister, Maryn   If only I could make you as proud of me, as I am of you.   And to Wehnimer's Landing, for being a place I will always call home.

Chapter 1 - Ta'Nalfein

My name is Havil Avanriol. I was born to Hetryn Trethen and Averi Avanriol N.... [the rest of the word is scratched out and unreadable], in service to the Rinvarius family of Ta'Nalfein. I get my first name, my looks and my demeanor from my father. And from my mother, I get my last name, my intelligence and my unfortunate set of skills.

I don't remember much about my life before my sister, Maryn Avanriol, was born when I was 8. I took to her immediately. By the time I was 16, we spent nearly all of our time together, playing games and pranks, communicating in a made-up language of bird calls. I attended to my chores and friendships, but only with half a heart.

When I was 17, I attempted my first arvyad'gno . . . and failed miserably. I didn't mind too much at the time (why would I want to go Upstairs to serve our people when Maryn would still be down at home?), but by the time I failed my third arvyad'gno at 20, I was getting disheartened. At the same time, Maryn took to her service much more readily than I did. As such, she was somewhat popular with her peers, while I was consistently rejected by mine (both for poor service, and for preferring time with my sister to making friends). While Maryn continued to be a loving sister, she also began spending increasing time apart from me, leaving me lonely, bored and filled with angst.

A few years after my last failed arvyad'gno, and a few years still before Maryn would first attempt hers -- an event that filled me with dread . . . I would be forever shamed if she succeeded before me, not to mention that she would then spend most of her time Upstairs, away from me -- my mother took me aside one day. She told me that she had not always taken to a life of service either. She told me that when she was younger she was a member of a group of gnomes who "helped their host families in more important ways" than simple service. She offered to train me in the arts of deception, stealth, and assassination. For months I was in disbelief. At my mother's behest, I told no one, not even my father and sister. But nor could I talk to my mother or even look her in the eye. My isolation became extreme, to the point where I spent days at a time without leaving my room. Some time in Jastatos, with my 23rd birthday coming up (and with it, the question of whether or not I'd try the arvyad'gno again), the loneliness and anxiety finally became unbearable. I resigned myself to my fate and accepted the tutelage of my mother.

And in some ways, this new subject was exactly what I needed. It gave my life purpose and structure. The inner resentment I held toward Maryn eased and we became closer again, sharing stories, secrets, and laughter together. I renewed my dedication to service as well, driven partly by competition with Maryn, and partly by my new life's energy. Maryn and I both passed our arvyad'gnos a few years later: hers on her first try and, several months later, mine on my fourth try. And yet there was the one secret which I could never share with Maryn, and it kept us ever so slightly apart. That secret kept me distant from everyone, including my mother whom I resented for forcing it on me. While continuing my furtive lessons, I embraced a solitude of a different sort.

Chapter 2 - Enter Kasem

By the time I was 35, I had become calm and reserved. My sister and I remained close, though I took on a more protective, big-brotherly role through her twent-age years. I had learned about all I could from my mother, and felt strong and confident despite never having used any of the skills she taught. On the other hand, I still felt lonely and regretful over my lack of friends. But perhaps that deficiency was for the best, given what happened that year . . .

It was Restday, the morning of the 19th of Eorgaen. Our whole family awoke to terrible screams from the Rinvariuses Upstairs. Fearing for our lives, my parents, Maryn and I all hid in the deepest cellar, behind the wine racks. The horrible sounds from Upstairs eventually quieted sometime in the afternoon, followed by several painfully tense hours, passed in complete silence. Then, suddenly, the door to the basement opened and a harsh, quiet voice called, "I know there are gnomes down here; the out-bred elves are weak and needy. Come out now." My father told my sister and I to stay put and crawled out into the open. At that same instant, I realized that my mother was no longer at our side. I knew what she was planning and held my breath in hopes she could do it before my father got hurt.

My father announced himself to the owner of the harsh voice, a dark-skinned elf. The dark-elf smiled viciously. "How many of you are there then?" he asked.

"J-just me, sir. If it pleases you, I've, um, served the Rinvariuses loyally, and I would be, um, pleased to serve you as I-." Suddenly, a flash of light caught my eye. For an instant, I made out a knife flying toward the dark-elf's neck. In another moment, the knife was oddly slowing dramatically as it approached the dark-elf, and finally, there was a brilliant flash and the knife fell to the floor.

The dark-elf raised his hand and my head jerked to the source of the knife, just in time to see my mother unravel like string until she was no more. My stomach lurched and I retched silently. The dark-elf's gaze had never left my father though. "It seems you have lied to me, little gnome. How could I trust you to serve me if you lie?" Before my father could get out more than a few syllables, both of his legs were torn apart, and I heard his scream ring in my ears.

I saw my father's face turn green as the dark-elf made another motion. There was no time for retching. I whispered to Maryn to stay put, but I don't think she heard, so terrified she was. And I crawled out and stood in front of the dark-elf.

"Oh. Another!" the dark-elf exclaimed wickedly, his eyes flashing momentarily.

I don't know how I did it, but I spoke calmly, "Yes, sir. You killed my mother. My father is there. My sister is behind that rack, and I am here. There are no more."

The dark-elf's brow furrowed for but a moment before returning to his calm composure. "I don't need you to tell me this, fool."

I felt my gut wrench under intense pain and fell to my knees, "I know, s-sir. I came out to offer other services." The dark-elf's eyes narrowed, "You think just for telling the truth you-."

"Sir, my mother was a great assassin and I've learned all she knew. I-I can serve you with skill."

"It's nice to hear old fashioned grovelling for one's life," the dark-elf said and grinned. "The out-bred have too much 'honor' to grovel. Fine, you may serve me for a time, and in return I will not kill you."

"No," I spoke with the last bit of courage I had. The pain in my chest increased, but I went on, "I do not fear my own death. I will serve you if you allow my father and my sister to live."

The dark-elf hesitated. "Interesting. Your father lied to me, and shall die for it." He made a motion and my father shuddered once more and then lay still. "Your sister can go, but her memory cannot." I heard a squeak and a thud from the wine racks. I jumped back and started toward her.

"LEAVE HER," the dark-elf commanded, halting me in my steps. "Come." Without another look back, I followed the dark-elf out to begin my new life.

Chapter 3 - Gnomish Assassin

I was to call him simply, "Master", sometimes in elven, often in other languages with which I wasn't familiar. At first, I rebelled, unwilling to kill for him, always waiting for a chance to drive my knife into his neck instead of his intended victim's. Unfortunately, my master was very good at what he did, and after only a few months of "training", I was broken and resigned to serve him as best I could.

Through my service to him, by listening to his conversations with others, I learned that my master's name was Kasem Vashoner and he was a Dhe'nari sorcerer, feared by many. He had a hatred of all non-Dhe'nar elves, but in particular, half-elves and other "less pure breeds". He devised elaborate plots in various elven cities to destroy those he believed had wronged him. And, there was always someone, often many someones, hunting him, trying to bring him to justice or perhaps just to get revenge. He took special pleasure in dispatching those sorts. I quickly became adept at serving my master, able to tell from a brief glance whom I was to slay and when. And my mother had taught me well; I soon was able to kill with efficiency in complete secrecy. It didn't take long for my disgust of the deeds to fade. In time, I began to associate myself with the name Kasem called me, which I eventually learned was Dhe'nari for "gnomish assassin". And in enough time, I even found myself enjoying my duties, relishing Kasem's faint praise after a job well done.

I lost track of time. In the back of my head, I kept mental records of each kill, but otherwise I lived entirely in the present. Thoughts and memories of my past life vanished. My parents, life in Ta'Nalfein and even Maryn, all forgotten. I lived to serve Kasem and his terrible agenda.

Months turned into years. And years into decades. Before I knew it, I was an old gnome, not far from my centennial. Some gnomes claim the centennial can be the prime of life, where one is still quite physically fit, and has acquired the wisdom of life. But I think not so for me. Years yet before mine, and I was already feeling the pains of senescence. And the only "wisdom" I had acquired was how to kill quickly, pick locks and pockets, sneak around, and cast a few spells that Kasem had taught me. Kasem pushed me hard, and it took its toll.

Just as Kasem didn't notice -- or care -- that the years hit me much harder than they hit him, he didn't fully realize how dependent on me he had become. He expected me to be there when he didn't want his hands dirty. He knew I would get the job done when he had other things to attend to. After all this time, he now trusted me implicitly. A trust well warranted . . . until just the right circumstances . . . The opportunity occurred in the year of 5103 near the dwarven settlement of Zul Logath where we had been following a wizard known as Jelphor Toreme. One duty I had been entrusted with was to be the first line of defense while Kasem worked with his scrolls. Of course, Kasem had other protections up, but he relied on me for warning when he was unusually vulnerable. One day in early Eoantos, while we were camping just outside Zul Logath, a cat wandered into the area. I was instructed to kill all animals, as any could be Jelphor's familiar, but for some reason I decided to let this one be.

In a few moments, a portal opened and Jelphor did indeed step through, petting the cat briefly before sending it away. I hastily hid and waited, a knife ready, watching for any sign that the wizard had seen me. He had not; he was intent on a spell, incanting slowly. After a bit, when I was just about ready to strike regardless, a flash suddenly erupted between Jelphor and Kasem, blinding me and throwing me back. My arm was already tensed however, and even as I fell, I released the knife. When I regained my sight, I saw that my aim had been true: Jelphor was dead. And kneeling over the wizard, Kasem was mumbling madly, seemingly weak and ready to strike anything that came near with whatever spell he had available.

I then served my failing master, not as my mother had taught me, but as my father had. I tended his wounds, laid him to bed, made him dinner and over the next few weeks slowly nursed him back to health. I cursed myself for my curiosity over the wizard and couldn't figure out why I had hesitated so long. But even as Kasem sought to understand the events of that day, he seemed not to question my part in it. I still don't really know what happened myself, except that after that point, Kasem no longer put protective wards over the camp while he worked on his scrolls. Even though my master had turned out alright, I continued to obsess about that day. It nagged at me while awake, and haunted me in my dreams; every night I relived that day, watching Jelphor from the shadows. And then, watching Jelphor as if through his own eyes. Then, one night, I was Jelphor, casting a spell at Kasem. And the next night, I was myself, standing in Jelphor's place, approaching Kasem with knives ready. I drove my dagger into his chest and awoke sweating.

The ideas crept into my head from the dreams: "How easy it would be. Kasem was still weak from Jelphor. There were no wards up when he was concentrating on the scrolls. He would never suspect me. One knife to the throat." An odd fascination that I just couldn't shake. At the same time, Eorgaen the 19th was approaching. Every year, on the anniversary of my parents' deaths, wherever we were, I would leave a small token to remember them. It was the only time all year I thought of the past. Even so, some years I think I only did it out of habit, not really remembering. But this year I did remember. I remembered them, and I remembered Maryn.

I remembered myself. And my morbid fascination with Kasem's death became a definite plan.

On the day of the anniversary, I was ready. I took guard as usual in the early morning as Kasem began his scroll work. I waited until the moment that, as I'd learned, he was most immersed in his work. I calmed myself with a spell, readied five weapons (you can never have too many when confronting an evil sorcerer), and sneaked into the tent with Kasem. Although no wards now kept me out of the tent, I knew that he still wore the same protective spells that had prevented my mother's shot so long ago. However, I now knew exactly how long they would last. I climbed up on a stool off to the side and waited.

I watched as the swirling air surrounding Kasem faded away. Painfully, I then waited longer; the elemental protective spells held for exactly one extra minute. I counted down the seconds in my head. 30 left. I noticed the signs that Kasem was finishing up his current scroll and aimed my knife, ready to strike before he finished, whether or not the protection dropped in time. 10, 9, 8, I watched him infuse the scroll a final time. 5, 4, 3, Kasem finished and lifted his head toward me, and I released my first knife. Kasem's body flashed brilliantly and I grimaced at having thrown too soon. I almost ran, thinking my blade had been deflected, but as the light cleared, I saw Kasem's hand, still holding the scroll, pinned to the table. The light had been his protection falling, just moments before my knife struck. Kasem saw me, a momentary look of surprise on his face. I didn't hesitate: my second blade flashed out, straight into his throat. Kasem's eyes widened as he attempted to invoke a spell that needed no voice, but in my next motion I threw two darts, piercing his eyes simultaneously.

Having lived thus far, and with Kasem completely disabled, I felt something surge inside me. I scrambled up the table in front of Kasem and stood over him. "You will remember." Kasem's expression turned to one of the utmost fury as he mouthed the words, "You. Do. Not. Dare."

"Oh, I do, sir. I have served you long enough. You will now remember my Family and my parents, who you killed many years ago on this day. For my parent's deaths, and my Family's screams, you will pay." And then, I saw an expression on Kasem that I'd never seen before. I realize now that it was fear. "You will remember, and you will die." I took my last dagger and drove it straight into Kasem's heart. A few minutes passed as I watched him slowly stop breathing and stop bleeding. Finally, just to be sure, I took the knife from his throat and sliced off his head.

As I left, I announced to no one in particular, "My name - is Havil Avanriol."

Chapter 4 - A soft Landing

Unfortunately, the courage and strength that surged in me as I took my revenge quickly turned into fear and uncertainty afterward. Kasem was a hated, feared and well-known sorcerer. Many would feel and notice his death. I knew there were Faendryl elves out to destroy Kasem, and worse, practically an army of Vaalor elves hunting him who also knew of Kasem's gnomish accomplice. While I thought the former might overlook me, and the latter might give me some leeway, I also worried that Kasem's few Dhe'nar friends might seek me out for their own vengeance.

So, I ran westward where Kasem had done less damage. I found a small frontier town that we'd never been to, or even near: Wehnimer's Landing. I adopted the name Harnen, feigned ignorance and innocence, and sought simple jobs with the locals. I made myself as humble and proper as a gnome should be and hoped against hope that I could avoid notice. Yet, something nagged at me. I had made a few friends in the Landing, but every day I remembered and missed Maryn more and more. I wondered if she had survived -- if she still remembered me.

During those times I had stayed entirely off the thought nets. Kasem had told me ways that people could be tracked and found through them, and I didn't want to take any risks. But the urge to find Maryn became more and more pressing in my mind, and finally I just had to know. I called out to her on the thought net and waited. I heard nothing from Maryn. Instead, I heard someone somewhere think the name my master had once called me. My blood chilled and I threw off the crystal amulet. I realized that I couldn't hide forever, and decided to accept the lesser of two evils. I could only hope that Vaalor elves would forgive me, or at least show me mercy.

With help from my new friends (though without telling them why), I obtained access to a portal that took me straight to Ta'Vaalor. Once there though, I hesitated. I needed to see my sister again. If the elves were strict with me, this might be my last chance. So, thinking the portal had put me a step ahead of my pursuers, I traveled to Ta'Nalfein to find Maryn.

Amazingly, my search ended almost the moment I set foot in Ta'Nalfein. My sister had become well-known among the gnomes there . . . as one of the designers of the gnomish airship, the Dhu Gilliwack! I could barely contain my delight; and pride, I was so proud of her. And also, relief that my sacrifice had kept her alive and well.

Finally, almost sixty years apart, my sister and I were reunited, in tears, joy and love. She told me all about her life, building the Gilliwack, finding her husband, and raising their son. I told her only about my life in the Landing, making it sound as if I'd been there for years. I just couldn't burden her with what I'd done. I'm sure she knew something was missing, but she didn't press me; neither of us spoke of what happened that night. I could have stayed there forever, but I was afraid I'd endanger her and her family. So after only a short while, I found myself back in Ta'Vaalor. I dreaded what I had to do, but I felt satisfied after seeing my sister, and knew I could take whatever punishment the Vaalor elves deemed appropriate.

They imprisoned me immediately. There was indeed a search party out looking for me (though much smaller than the one that had been hunting Kasem). Once they returned, they questioned me harshly but without bias. After several intense days, they determined I had acted within reason and without a choice in the matter, and given that I'd killed Kasem in the end, were willing to release me . . . with a few conditions. To never use the thought nets. To avoid the transport portals. To always wear a magical homing beacon they provided. And finally, to stay in the Landing and tell no one of my true identity. So I did. And I felt freer and happier than ever. I made a living locksmithing for the town. I joined a local guild, a group to learn more magic and a house called the Fireside Inn. Through these, and through locksmithing, I met many people, and more importantly, made many friends. Many wonderful friends. I fell in love with the town and my friends there.

I also fell in love with a girl for the first time in my life. A female gnome named Kessah. For a few wonderful months we were inseparable. We would sit in the town square together; she would heal folks while I unlocked their treasure chests. Her carefree attitude began to rub off on me. I put aside the elves' warnings, and began listening to the thought nets (feeling safer after learning to do it without an amulet) and traveled the continent with her.

Between finding my first love, my first real friends, and knowing my sister was safe and I was free, I was truly happy for the first time in my life since I was a teenager.

Chapter 5 - All good things

Although Kessah and I were very happy, we had our issues. I eventually told her of my past life, which she accepted and forgave, but for whatever reason, I often held her history against her. In particular, one of her exes, Karil, was her brother's, Tesel's, best friend with whom she spent much time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Karil and I hated each other, though we only met once or twice. So Kessah and I often fought about Karil, she saying he's in the past, and I not understanding.

And then it got complicated. As things would have it, Karil and Tesel were involved in a plot to kill a gnome in Jildon, who just so happened to be my uncle (on my mother's side), whom I'd never met. Before I knew any of this, my uncle wrote to me, prompting Kessah and I to travel to Jildon to visit. Karil and Tesel showed up, feigning to be looking for Kessah, but my uncle knew of them and later begged for my help. So, with my hatred for Karil getting the better of me, I agreed to kill him. At the same time, Kessah, having learned of their plot, came to warn us and urge us to leave. I struggled with myself. I had made up my mind to kill Karil, but I couldn't tell her that. And so I gave in, and we ran. But not far; from behind us an arrow shot out and pierced my uncle through the heart. Kessah couldn't heal him in time, and he had not the Gods' favor to live on.

I was furious. Kessah pleaded with me to stay and calm down, but I couldn't. I left her and ran to confront our attacker who I was sure was Karil. I searched all day, but didn't find him, and when I returned, Kessah was gone. We parted ways that day. She sent me a letter trying to explain, but I couldn't bear to respond. I still loved her, but I couldn't forgive her. I spent some time away from the Landing, but eventually my friends there drew me back, Kessah or no. I think I was ready to see her by then, but Kessah had moved back with her family in Gallardshold. Still, I did have my friends, and they were very good friends indeed, though I kept secret most of what happened. And I retained the sense of confidence and more easy-going attitude I had picked up from Kessah. It pushed me to want to better myself. I advanced my locksmithing skills in the guild, and attempted to learn more mystical skills elsewhere. In the past, I had been content with just a few powers, even though they pushed me to learn more. But now, I eagerly learned all they taught.

It came suddenly. One day I was their best student, and the next the leader told me I was done. He looked different then; he reminded me of Kasem, making me shudder in horror. He told me that they had my soul, that I was to do exactly what they said, that I would never be free again . . . and I went blank. I remember nothing from the rest of that day or the days that followed, only what my friends later told me. They told me that I sat near the bench in town square all day as usual, but would respond to nothing, only mutter occasionally. They told me that everyone was concerned for my sake and tried everything to help, but nothing worked. Finally, my closest friend at the time took me aside and figured out what had happened. Having been through it herself, she consoled me, and convinced me that the only hold they really had was in my mind. She eased my concerns and I came out of my slump, but I still couldn't get their words out of my head.

I barely had time to recover my confidence before another trial was upon me, or in this case, all of us. A great evil came back to the town, controlling the shadows and wreaking death and havoc everywhere. We had fought it before, but without a clean victory. In the past year, my best friends had been victim to its sanity-depriving grip, leaving us all ill-at-ease. Its return was even worse. That struggle is documented elsewhere, but in the end, we did prevail. But not without more loss. My two best friends, Tia and Darbyan, had had enough. They were scarred mentally and physically from the struggle. They moved away, seeking quieter times. I considered following them, to serve wherever they went. But something inside myself held me back; I wanted to be stronger, and I couldn't leave the Landing.

So, I redoubled my efforts at self-improvement. I took up other skills in my guild. I was wary of anything that seemed too easy, but these skills took intense practice and dedication, and I felt confident that I wouldn't fall into another trap. However, the skills also required much time spent in the guild, and I became more isolated, locksmithing less, and maintaining only a few friends outside of the guild.

And yet, life would not give me a break. Just a few months later, my fear from a different life, almost forgotten with time, came to haunt me. A Dhe'nar named Acceyel arrived at the Landing, seeking me by my former name, Havil. I managed not to run into him for a few days, and his inquiries were largely unanswered since he only knew my old name, which few in town knew. But I finally learned of him, and when I did, I felt like I was back in the cellar seeing Kasem for the first time. I ran to the guild to hide, hoping that they could protect me. My friends there called a meeting. Jaired, Torese, Shyllia, and Mithogras told me they would do whatever they could to protect me. Together we devised a plan. I would speak to him, but on our terms, with Shyllia luring him out, and the rest hiding in the shadows. I was hesitant, but to show their solidarity, they promoted me to guild master. I felt so proud and so glad to have the friends that I did. Now resolute, I agreed to the plan.

We met him outside the inn. I trembled but held my ground. It took only a moment to discover that he was alone and wanted me to serve him as I had Kasem. He cast a spell to weaken me, and I reacted on instinct. Using my new strength, I threw a dagger straight to Acceyel's eye, killing him instantly, and ran. I would never let myself be enslaved again. I am told that my guild mates then took him away and got him to agree to never return; I didn't ask how.

Myself, I was amazed how easy it had been to kill him. I felt powerful and fearless. I had stood up to my past and won.

After that day, I began hunting the many beasts that roamed Elanthia. I felt stronger every day. I joined the town Militia, wanting to protect this town that had given me so much. I was constantly watching for new threats: another Dhe'nar, evil shadow creatures, or even just a gnome named Karil. I ranged farther and farther from town in search of these and other potential dangers. I was eager to confront them. Too eager. One day, when I returned to the Landing from an extended absence, I found the town in the midst of a political upheaval. There was secrecy and confusion, and at the heart of it, I was distressed to discover, was one of my best remaining friends, Firenzes. Even the Militia, led by my other friend, Jaired, was involved. I was so eager for conflict that I didn't stop to learn the details. I wanted to attack, to protect my home somehow, but I didn't know who to fight. I felt betrayed and friendless.

And so I left. Strong, but disheartened. Fearless, yet paranoid.

Chapter 6 - Reparation . . . rejected

I wandered aimlessly across the human empire; I desired purpose, but could find none. I no longer hunted wild beasts, nor protected the Landing, nor locksmithed. I turned to thievery for sustenance, feeling regretful, but needing to eat. I spent months like this, drawing ever inward, until one day I happened upon someone I recognized.

I was caught stealing a pastry by an angry middle-aged woman. I turned and instantly knew her; I'd killed her husband, some ten years ago. Kasem and I had been trekking through the forest when I nearly stepped right into a bear trap. Kasem was furious, ranting about attacks on us. He had me hide and wait near the trap to dispatch he who came to collect it. I did, and a man came, and quickly died to my daggers. Hearing his scream, this woman came running and fell to his side, crying. I still remember the smell of her spilt berries, mixing with the man's spilt blood. There she was, ten years later, shouting at me to get out of her pantry. I froze. I wanted to . . . say something to her; tell her I was sorry; show her I'd changed. But I couldn't move. At least, not until she smacked me with a broom and I scrambled pathetically out.

But that gave me an idea, the purpose I needed. The next day, I went back, this time knocking at her door. She was confused at first, starting to shoo me away again, but I told her I needed to speak. With my head hung in shame, I told her what I'd done. I told her why and tried to apologize, but by that point I don't think she was listening. She fell to the ground and screamed out her hatred of me over and over. I looked up and her face was so anguished that it made my stomach churn. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that. I ran.

I was unsettled by that episode, but still knew that I had to do this. I had to seek out those I'd hurt and apologize. One by one, I could make my amends. Or so I thought. But with each attempt, I remembered more of my past.

A man whose son I'd murdered for bumping into Kasem. A human boy I'd restrained while his family was tortured. An elven teacher whose whole class we'd slaughtered. A half-elven woman whose parents I'd executed for daring to mate outside their race. A sylvan whose brother I'd gutted for trying to swindle us. A giantman I'd blinded and crippled simply because Kasem was bored.

And with each rejection, I became more depressed.

Kicked to the ground. Struck with innumerable objects. Cursed at. Cast at. Spat at. Nearly shot through the head with an arrow. And the worst, simply ignored while they cried, cried and cried.

Not one accepted my apologies, yet I felt I had to continue this dismal task. Periodically, during this time, I would return to the Landing, unable to stay away entirely. But I found no friends there. In part, I simply couldn't bear to face those who were left; not even Oublie, with her simple joyfulness. Reliving my past every day, I feared others would somehow also know. So I hid in the shadows, making only fleeting contact.

Month after month I spent alone and miserable, continually frustrated with the lack of friends and forgiveness.

And slowly, I found myself getting angry. Angry that people wouldn't understand. Angry that they hated me. And angry at myself for being who I was, having done what I'd done, and . . . for needing their forgiveness.

Chapter 7 - Power . . . rescinded

I began to lose myself. Every day, I grew more resentful and suspicious of the world around me. I stopped trying to apologize; instead I wanted to cause them even more grief.

I sought ever more power and used it to lash out at everyone near me. I stalked around in the shadows, picking petty fights and stealing again, now out of pure hostility. I took dark pleasure in the pain of others.

With malice waxing and sanity waning, I lost control of even my own mind, sending my detestable thoughts out to the world. I cared naught for what anyone thought of me.

Now I hunted creatures and people alike. Nothing would alleviate my fury. More deaths at my hand, and this time there was no evil sorcerer to blame. With each kill, I felt stronger; but never strong enough. I still didn't have the power to resist death, and there were fewer and fewer willing to come to my aid. Though I somehow had enough favor of the gods to keep coming back, I found it harder and harder to hold on to my possessions. Somewhere I learned that the society of Voln offered the power of self-preservation. That was exactly what I needed.

I found one of Voln to induct me, but she said I was impure. I could feel it too. That mystical society whose powers I still carried but needed not anymore. I found one of a very few old friends who would still talk to me, one who I knew had shed those powers himself. I followed his directions to resign in the very place I'd started so many years ago.

But there I was made to face what I had become. I had overcome all the things I had been afraid of, only to become one of them myself. I had fought so hard to avoid enslavement that I had trapped myself in a terrible world and power and paranoia. I knelt and wept. And I was free.

Chapter 8 - And now

And now it's been over a year since that vision. Nearly six long years since I escaped Kasem's grip. Nearly sixty-five since I lost my parents and my first, so-innocent life.

I've spent my time since reflecting on where I went wrong. I'm humbled by my many mistakes in life. I'm ashamed of what I've done, and who I've hurt. But I've come to accept that one cannot change the past, but only learn from it. I've lived with secrets all my life and I write this book so that I may finally cleanse myself of them.

This month I celebrate my centennial. I can only hope to start the next hundred years with wisdom acquired from the first hundred.


I will be a better gnome.