I saw him, once, in the message of a linking sphere, threatening, warning, declaring, the conquest of the earth. Sheathed in liquid matte-black armor, pale and thin as death itself. I have been him in my dreams. Finding in exile, on a barren worldlet far from even Kalnar, the cube within cubes, the wonder within mysteries unknown that was a lost ren’al, the instrument that woke the nightwind and restored him to power among his people. Feeling his brittle arrogance, his impotent rage, his ubiquitous contempt. Thank the heavens that Suriel sent me no vision of whenever the nine khrall broke free of their prison, and came to serve unwilling at his feet.
Doubt and darkness. I don’t know what to do. Nothing will be easy. Priest Malakan was a paranoid narcissist before he discovered the artifact that gave him inhuman immortality, before he discovered the nanotechnology that’s let his rule devour entire planets, and before he enlisted the servants who defy the ordinary rules of this universe and would claim his artifact as their own. One imagines he will not have left his homeworld undefended. Perhaps that is what the hurling of another galaxy is for, if it is in fact his doing, though I suspect it’s not. In any case he’ll have seen Jerem Cozak coming, and he’s already fooled him once.
I used to resent this, I know, stepping out again into the murky cosmos of the living. That’s what Ship says caused my psychological crisis, out there in that asteroid field, after Thaeron. Not so much the dying as the getting up again. Everything felt wrong, after dying felt so right to me, so complete. Now I want to feel that I was being petty, then. How many have gotten the chance to walk back into the light, obscured as it may be? I was dead. Really dead. I mean the notify-my-kin, make-me-a-memorial, put-me-in-the-ground, cold, hard kind of dead. How ungrateful does one have to be to rue another opportunity? After that? I didn’t see Nogilian or Del Tanich complaining about their second chance, let alone Jerem Cozak.
But Ship says that such resentment, too, is understandable. I face struggles – all the reborn face struggles – for which we are not necessarily equipped. Life is not obviously pleasant even to infants, who know nothing of its deepest hurt. Light itself can be harsh and abrasive, even in its beauty. And there is nothing, even in new life, to prove to us that we are not alone. My most significant companion during this sojourn has been a sentient computer thousands of years old but never woken before, lying inert for untold centuries on the ocean floor, who cannot feel a thing. My last human conversations, with both Jerem Cozak and Del Tanich, were not of the consoling kind. I only tried to help them, when I could have expressed the desolation of my soul.
Well, I have certainly now done enough of that. This unburdening, too, feels complete. I approach a different simplicity, the austere consolation of the living. So. I trust you. I trust that you’ve found a way to stay alive and uncorrupted. I trust that even if you haven’t, the universe will shepherd me toward another appropriate destination, another completed act. I trust that, wherever I go, there I will be needed. I will make a change in things. The perverse effect of the Nightwind Wars, conflict nested in conflagration, is that the effects of all our actions stretch outward, both in time and space, further than we ever could have foreseen, to realms we do not yet understand, with effects greater than we could have imagined.
So I don’t know what I’m going to do. And I don’t know what you will do. But behold, I come. I know I will do something, and I know it’s going to matter. I will not be undone.