Second Darkness

What happens inside the mental fortress of Serp?

A stream, no, river of thoughts in a mind like the ocean

With the drow pushed back out of Celwynvian, Serp feels like he has decisively accomplished his objective of becoming a “hero” – which is to say the naive people of the area will be impressed, giving Serp a leg up in the inevitable conflict when he returns to Riddleport. Serp lies on a cot in the elf encampment staring off at the tent in the dark. Going home to finally kill fucking Zincher after all this bullshit will be amazing and liberating. After all, he owes Zincher at least one death following the pickaxe incident… and the numerous other times Zincher has tried to kill him. And for bringing that “ghost” around to haunt him after the pickaxe… But tearing Zincher apart one tiny piece at a time will show that arrogant piece of shit who really runs Riddleport.

Serp closes his eyes to enjoy the fantasy. With Zincher dead, he won’t need his old posse of bodyguards anymore, and they’ll probably just bugger off to go murder-hoboing somewhere else, like every adventurer that passes through Riddleport. After all, he has the resources now, those adventurers don’t have a way back, and by the time they come back to Riddleport he’ll be securely a Crimelord in Riddleport… if they ever decide that shithole..well, his Shithole… is worth returning to.

His enjoyment of the fantasy sours a bit. But what then? Don’t fool yourself, he thought. Riddleport’s Crimelords don’t sleep soundly, just like the beggars in the streets of Riddleport. Crimelords tend to end up just as dead in their expensive villas as the poor sods left dead in the gutters. It’s not like those rich bastards in Absalom who can just walk around in the streets unarmed and enjoy their money on hookers and fine Qadiran cigars. Absalom is both so alien and so serene… maybe just enough trouble there to enjoy but enough security to sleep soundly. His pile of wealth might not be as impressive by Absalom standards as it would be in Riddleport, but at least he would wake up every morning. Most likely with some young new prostitute. Absalom is probably awash in young new tiefling prostitutes…

The fantasy was nice, but turned slowly to reality: even a new young tiefling prostitute every night isn’t quite going to replace her. Serp has, at this point in his life, spent as much money on prostitutes than he’s made selling girls into prostitution – which was not an inconsiderable sum. But his new fixation on tiefling girls is no coincidence, and it wasn’t the Calistrian hookers that made his first day in Absalom his best day. He had realized that his fortress of ego has been breached. His control of his emotions has been violated and he’s been too deluding himself to not admit it. As hard as he tries to deny it, his mind keeps going back to one woman. He has caught feels, and he’s a bit disgusted with himself.

Serp has seen the stupid things people do after they catch feels. Hell, he’s played quite a lot of money off of naive girls who have fallen for his charms. But one thing is inevitable – the victims of these emotions get robbed of wealth and health and they justify it as being some noble sacrifice for the preservation of their emotional delusions. Serp has already seen himself do some dumb shit because of her. Charging into battle just to look like a hero to impress her? What the fuck were you thinking, man? That’s how idiots get killed. But he had done it, he couldn’t deny the fact that the feels were already taking their toll on his mind.

The thought of surrendering to it crosses Serp’s mind, which makes him nauseous. Love is the most sinister four letter word. He’s seen the look of heartbreak and betrayal in a girl’s eyes when the man she was in love with turned out to be using her. Look what happened to Krog when he thought he was loved by a family. He’s seen how devotion to the ideal of love played out for Avay. His stomach turns.

She got lucky to escape, but her belief left her willfully naive, making sacrifices for others, and soon enough left her dead. His sister probably thought herself blessed to escape, not thinking of the shitstorm it left Serp in when he was left with her debt. Avay was young and pretty, and thus valuable. The girls Serp sold to the whorehouse to cover that debt were not as blessed, and so it took charming and deceiving quite a number of them before the knives were no longer out for him. Of course, the days where you get down to no one threatening to kill you is always a short interlude in Riddleport when you don’t have wealth and power. Still, Avay doesn’t think about how many others paid the price for her “luck”, Serp included. Serp just can’t think about her anymore.

Catching feels is a deadly disease, and not to be underestimated. Certainly, Serp had thought about ditching his bodyguards and running off to find Zhania many times. Though that might complicate things for her and her coven, in addition to leaving Serp vulnerable. Diviners only know where she had run off to anyway. She clearly didn’t care enough to stick around, so why must he be the one stuck with this debilitating emotion? He had heard the expression that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”… like poverty makes you fonder of money, like starvation makes you fonder of food. Is that to be celebrated? “Yes, let’s all starve ourselves so we can enjoy food more!” said Serp’s strawman as he smirked to his superiority.

Yet here he was, thousands of miles and weeks away from her, with piles of valuables heaped around his cot, risking his life and thinking about her. He knew he should be loading up the horse, and riding off to market, and what happens after that… and yet, here he laid.

Why? Sorting through the lies in his own mind was like walking through the thicket at night: a mire tangled in thorns in the darkness. Was he really doing this to impress her? Or was it that he just needed an excuse to continue to go on with a halfling Zhania would most likely seek out before she looked for him. Was he jealous? Could his emotional mess be unrequited? Those were questions he chose not to pursue. Was he vulnerable without their protection? Or were they merely the most profitable long con he had ever seen? Was it really a con if they don’t even care how rich he gets off them? He should leave this place today and do what he wants, which is to find Zhania.

And of course, what if he doesn’t find her? She’s off on coven business which is presumably pretty damned important if they’re asking her to stop this “saving the world” nonsense. Of course, the world has never ended yet, so Serp doesn’t think this adventure is quite so grand as that. But what if he can’t find her? Is he stuck waiting for her to come back to him?

But say he does find her: what then? When he finds her, what will she say about him leaving the others for dead? Sigh. She’s too softhearted. If that halfling dies she’ll be quite upset, and if she thinks it’s Serp’s fault, well, that’s just like becoming a dead crimelord. Fuck. Serp realizes that he’s now trapped, and this addiction of feelings is becoming as ugly as the drug addicts whoring and killing in the alleys of Riddleport. How does one escape from this? Serp realizes he’s shaking in his cot. He needs answers for how people survive like this, but trusts no one. He’s trapped, and needs to exert control to prove his superiority over this internal weakness.

How does he get out of this? One way is to make sure the halfing, wizard, psycho and mercenary are all dead and never to be found. Destroy the portal so there’s no return? Perhaps, but there must be another exit where the drow came in. And if they get back to this plane, that damned wizard will probably just teleport them to wherever the hell they want. And Zhania hasn’t used much of her power yet, but when she decides use divination she’ll figure out what she wants to know. And whatever the truth is, that must not look bad for Serp.

Make the elves love you so that when Zhania comes looking word is you’re acting like a hero. Keep that retarded halfling alive so Zhania thinks you’re a decent person. Fuck. When does it end? It’s not his fault those idiots ran through a portal to some weird world full of drow – could Zhania really blame him for that? What about the next stupid, suicidal thing they do? When would he need to stop keeping them alive?

But they are useful. So useful, in fact, it’s possible Enderil might be able to figure out what that coven is up to, and cheaper than it be if Serp were to try to find her himself. If Serp knew that, he could find Zhania, end the coven’s needs of her, and take her back to Absalom with hookers and happiness forever.

He wished she would just come back already so he didn’t have to play this more complicated game. One against the world is easy. This is not so simple, and he didn’t have the answers. Or know where to find them. Or if there were any answers.

So just take control. Make your own way back to her, and charm the shit out of everything in your way. Get Enderil to answer your questions. Start by getting through that stupid portal. If the elves’ pathetic wizard relied on Serp of all people to fight off these drow, wouldn’t it make more sense for Serp to open this gate himself? Serp prepares his bags, leaving the heaviest loot in the saddlebags in the tent, and sighs at leaving such un-carryable wealth behind with these unreliable elves. No time like the present.


qtperdu ThatDude

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