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Descent

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Sunday is gloomy
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless

Billie Holiday - "Gloomy Sunday"




These are excerpts from a tome discovered by an adventurous (read: unauthorized entrant into the sub-levels) former student at the Senntisten dig site. Though worn with age and the pages fragile due to poor preservation, the book managed to survive long enough for a group of students, understudies, and two professors to transcribe its contents in a collective effort. These do not represent the entirety of the journal, only entries chosen to give a rough idea of events. Some entries included details considered too extreme for young students and were omitted.

It should be noted that this is the first time so many archaeologists, scribes, linguists, historians, and librarians have been involved in a single project without quarreling. This may have something to do with Nardah's Ali the Wise being involved; not only did he identify the language in which it was written (Infernal), but seemed to intuitively recognize it as being written by a doctor. Wise's contribution helped determine the book's age - Second Age, to be precise - and his influence kept the others from descending into unproductive arguments. It has been suggested that Site and Centre would both do with more of his involvement in other projects, however, Wise seemed reluctant to accept a regular position, citing personal pursuits and little time to spend corralling "self-important specialists." (There were further comments, but the author of this preface has elected to forego them due to language unsuitable in either a professional or learning environment. The author also has no interest in being introduced to a pickaxe through the suggested orifice as penalty for their inclusion.)

What remains of the original is now safely encased in glass in Varrock’s museum.

Some may find what’s written below unsettling. Readers are urged to exercise caution, and are reminded that they may discontinue reading at any time.

 

There is a price exacted for daring to question a zealot in his place of power. For having the audacity to speak against his mindless devotion and the harm it does, or what it might do if left unchecked. Sometimes that price is a curt dismissal, or public ridicule. Sometimes it’s a different breed of dismissal, a more all-encompassing kind, when that zealot sees himself as being exempt from common decency solely through… virtue… of his unbridled devotion. When nothing else matters to him, including the stability of the empire erected in the name of the devotee.

I’ve been dismissed. For the last time, at least.

A thin - nay, spectral - comfort.

He didn’t want to hear talk of moderation, or of reason. His exacting nature permits no margin for error, nor does it put stock in forgiveness. Even for a Mahjarrat, his nature is absolute.

I don’t regret confronting Azzanadra.

 

……….

 

An addendum to the earlier entry: I do regret my timing. To go to him alone was incredibly foolish of me. Perhaps an escape would’ve been possible had someone - Wahisietel or Mizzarch, maybe - been there to witness it. I suspect at least the former is as uncomfortable around Azzanadra as I.

Speaking of escape, I’ve begun testing the foundation. Though his work is above reproach, I find myself cursing Mizzarch’s perfect understanding of structure. This place was built to contain those who were both mentally unstable and crafty; though I lack in the first, I like to think I’m adequate in the second.

Not that it’s done me much good. I’ve moved around the first few cells, stone by stone, methodically knocking upon and wedging a loose stick of rebar around each. No signs of give in any of them.

Damn Mizzarch’s attention to detail. I’ve said that aloud too many times. It bears reiterating in this old ledger of mine.

Perhaps one of them will notice my absence and think to search down here. Surely one of them will. There is some faint sense of the others, but that sense is dulled here. They're more like echoes of the presences I recognize, afterimages, the way a sudden bright light leaves a dim secondary suggestion of its shape after that light disappears. I don't believe distance or the makeup of this prison alone are responsible. There's something else, a spell or ward of some kind in place that keeps our sense of each other vague, diluted.

I should’ve told someone. Perhaps I’m not so crafty as I thought.

 

……….

 

Five of six cells tested. I would test the last, but the introduction of hope followed by its swift departure leave me too tired to bother today.

My rebar stick dislodged a bit of crumbling mortar. It’s shameful to say, but the sound I made when those pale, chalky crumbs fell away was… desperate. The sound one makes when hope has been lost and impossibly regained, then stolen away again.

An honest sound, but no less humiliating. I’ll burn this page if I find myself returned to freedom.

More digging led to more crumbling mortar, but as it came loose I realized it was fruitless. The stones are too large. Their narrow sides face inward and to the outside, their lengths at least four times that of their width.

Too heavy. I cannot go beneath or through the walls themselves.

The sixth cell will still undergo scrutiny, but I have little hope any of the stones are cracked, and even less that any partial stones were used in laziness or to conserve resources. Mizzarch is a perfectionist in all things.

Damn him. Perhaps if I curse enough, he’ll sense the frustration aimed at him and come down here to determine its source, ward or no ward.

A fanciful idea.

 

……….

 

I am… exhausted.

The asylum is as inescapable as intended. No part of the ceiling, the great stone door, or any juncture or point is vulnerable even to the most patient scraping.

Not that it matters now. My rebar is broken. Claws do only so much before the pain becomes unbearable.

Surely they suspect. Someone must suspect. Wahisietel. Trindine. Nothing escapes Sliske.

Not that he’d necessarily… no, best not to think about that now.

Perhaps I've been written off as a deserter, a heretic, in which case it wouldn't do to be discovered by a Praetorian first. I wouldn't put it past Azzanadra to seal off any hope of return as securely as the asylum has been sealed against unapproved egress.

I’ve begun chipping away at small rocks I’ve found in the other cells. I’m no artist, but one has begun bearing satisfactory resemblance to a young aviansie.

I could… could theorize on what sort of treatments were afforded the mentally ill in this place to pass the time. Perhaps. I’m not certain what entertaining such images might do for my current state, given my predicament.

I’ll wait until I feel less unsettled.

 

………

 

It’s been too long down here. I know it. I feel my ability to maintain this fully-fleshed form waning. How long? It already feels impossibly long. I haven’t begun regressing to the skeletal form yet, but elasticity has gone from my skin. I’ll be forced to revert soon to conserve energy.

The pages in my ledger have yellowed. I’m grateful I chose a pencil in lieu of a pen; no doubt the ink in a pen would’ve dried long ago.

I do not regret. I don’t regret telling you what you needed to hear, Azzanadra, even if you refused to hear it.

 

………

 

Reversion. Loss of smell, of taste. I don’t particularly mind; there’s nothing in this place or on my person I care to experience with either sense at this point.

It must’ve happened by now. The Ritual.

There are moments I hear laughter and I cannot tell if it’s mine.

 

……….

 

Must be careful opening the ledger now. The spine is somewhat brittle. Once every… bedamned if I know. There’s no way to measure, but based on my rate of decay and loss of energy, I can make an estimate. One entry per Ritual missed - to do more would be to invite the damned thing falling apart. We will conserve our energies together.

This should be the second missed Ritual. I’ve found sleep helps pass the time. The first few weeks I didn’t dare for the risk of missing a voice outside the door, but it seems more prudent to keep myself going for as long as possible.

As long as I need to.

To tell. To tell them, to warn them. He’s gone too far.

 

……….

 

Third. Fourth? I can’t tell.

I wasn’t wrong. Azzanadra was wrong. Is. Is wrong.

Exhaustion and I are close compatriots. We inhabit this place together.

My ledger and I are close compatriots. We wither and age badly together.

 

……….

 

Eyes

                   There is no pain but I

 Can’t

            Can’t see

 

I can hear laughing

 

………

 

How alive

               This is not alive

  Misery and I

 

Compatriots

 

……….

 

Damnyou Azzindra