Scales of War
I leave this behind as a record in case I fail to return from this hopeless journey. Let it be known that, I, Shanta Singh, am in full possession of my faculties as I write these words. Whatever ill-natured tattle may issue from the mouths of the ignorant, I am perfectly sane, and have always been so.
Near as I can tell, the trouble started when my sister Priya got out of prison. I do not know where exactly she had been — my sister was always loathe to disclose her crimes to me, her elder sister, for she knew I would surely disapprove — but I do know that it was on that reflection of our plane of existence, in that bewitching yet deadly realm called the Feywild. Pravin had been in the custody of his father Ramesh, a mercenary who shortly thereafter met his death defending the trading caravan of a city councilor from bandits. Thus Pravin gained a mother, only to lose a father in short succession.
At this time, the letters I received from my sister took an unexpected turn. She had always been a bright, cheerfully optimistic person, with a sunny nature that I (alas! all too often) quashed with what I only considered good common sense. But each letter I received was more miserable than the last. She spoke of a great grief borne of her own lies and misdeeds, yet I wondered then, as I wonder now, whether those words were truly hers. I cannot conceive of my sister doing great harm to anyone. Be clear: this is not the delusion of an older sister, but a hard-eyed old woman who knows when a thing rings true. And these letters most assuredly did not ring true.
Then, disaster. I received word from Brindol that my poor sister had hanged herself in the woods. I am no longer young, and had thought my time in Brindol long past, but with the boy Pravin to consider, what else could I do? I gave up my life in Overlook and returned to where I had worked for many years. What little I could, I did. I gave my sister a decent burial, out of my own meagre savings. I strove to be a mother to Pravin, though in truth I was closer in years to being his grandmother. But as time went by, the boy began to act strangely. It was not true grief, of that I am certain. Tears and pining for his dead mother would certainly have been no surprise. Instead, he became gloomy, withdrawn, and secret — into his eyes came an opacity, a look that spoke of walls he had built within himself, shutting out the world. His speech became musical and well-modulated, and he took to dressing as if he were a bard of the harp. A child of barely ten winters, no less!
Even all this I would have dismissed as a child’s game-playing, were it not for the strange words he spoke at night, while asleep in his bed. Some form of elvish, to my ears, but dreadful was his cadence, as if he were intoning a funeral march — his voice, too, was many pitches lower, and rough, as if hoarse from screaming. During those times, I swear on the blood of Pelor that I saw marks appear on his neck, as if someone had strangled him. Over and over, he would repeat the same words. My elven is limited, but after a while I began to take his meaning. It was the woods to which he wanted to go — the same woods, I believe, where my sister took her own life. These nights of possession continued, and gradually spread into his waking moments, until I was not certain if a child stood before me, or some fell spirit that had invaded the body of my sister’s son. No one willingly aided me, for they thought I was the mad one — as if I would invent such tales about my flesh and blood!
As I write, I am about to embark on a course of action that may seem foolish to whoever is fated to read these words. But I am only a humble ex-bookkeeper, not a hero of legend. I cannot sit by and do nothing while this little boy is slowly driven mad. I must free him from this terrible spell. To that end, I am taking the boy to the woods. If the Raven Queen wills it, I hope that the spirit of my dead sister will appear and give Pravin some peace. There you have it. A grown woman, normally with both feet planted on the ground, pursing a path that most would deem quixotic at best, and outright folly at worst. Judge me how you wish, but I have no other choice. Madness is not what drives me, but rather love and desperation…
May the Sun shine on you forever and always.
Your humble servant,