Part XIV: The Story of Morpheus

He saw her from a distance, tending to the soldier who was in danger of losing his leg. He didn’t need his keen eyes to see the faint glow that emanated from her when she healed him; everyone saw it and reacted predictably.

Morpheus had never had much use for clerics, except for those of the Raven Queen, and even then… the spirituality in his own lineage was that of witchery, something altogether apart from the priesthood. The gift of ‘The Sight’ was a rare blessing amongst the shadar-kai, and for those who lived with it, they described it as a curse in equal parts. Certainly, Morpheus felt cursed…

Suddenly, the monk was alert, though his body remained motionless. She is headed towards me…I wonder why. Some taint left on me by Legion‘s magic? Does she detect evil that way? I’m in no shape to defend myself…

The figure was clad in gleaming armor with an angelic motif. Her skin was lilac in colour with white facial adornments, not dissimilar to Morpheus‘ own numerous tattoos. There was a… serenity about her, like the training he had taken to calm the rage in his soul only… different. Less harsh, somehow…

It made him uncomfortable.

She approached and made a sign he was familiar with, along with a standard shadar-kai greeting “In the end, the Queen.” It was an expression of the truth that all beings die, even gods, so that all paid tribute to the Raven Queen in the end. He was surprised she knew it. He remained silent, however.

“Do you require healing?” she asked gently.

“You cannot heal my affliction,” whispered Morpheus in response.

The beauty that Morpheus now recognized as a deva smiled. “Perhaps you underestimate me, my friend.”

“I have no friends,” Morpheus replied. It was an uncomfortable truth he had long known but this was the first time he admitted it aloud. Why did I say that? he wondered. Why am I speaking to her at all?

The deva pulled up a stool and sat down beside him. “It is a terrible life, to go through it without friends.”

Morpheus let out a sigh. “That has hardly been the worst part,” he whispered harshly. Again, the ghostwalker could not believe how vulnerable he was being with her… Is this weakness a result of Legion‘s ritual? What has he done to me?!

“Then tell me your story, dark one,” answered the paladin, who looked him over with curious sapphire eyes as she pulled up a chair to sit at his bedside. Ever distrustful, Morpheus looked for signs of condescension or some other nefarious motive… but could detect nothing.

Looking up and against his better judgment, before he even knew what was happening, he began. “My name is Morpheus…”

“Well met, Morpheus. I am Eranah.”

Morpheus looked her up and down. “You are a deva. How old are you?”

Eranah smiled an easy smile. “Ancient, I suppose, in some ways… but each life passes on, so the Queen always receives her due,” she added with a wink.

“I did not mean to offend…” began Morpheus with a whisper, though he could not understand why he was being so defensive or why he should worry about giving offense for that matter.

“None taken, I assure you,” she responded with another easy smile. Whereas Morpheus could be virtually unhittable in combat, he found the deva was easily piercing his emotional barriers.

Frustrated, the monk let out an exasperated whisper “I don’t even know where to start…”

Eranah poured him a cup of warm wine from the jug that was at the table next to his cot. “The beginning, perhaps?”

The monk sat up in his bed and sipped the wine. It was awful but he appreciated the warmth. “I arrived here not too long ago, in the company of another.”

“I thought you said you had no friends?”

“He is no friend,” hissed Morpheus through gritted teeth. Gathering himself, he spoke again. “His name is Legion. Tell me, holy deva, do you know what a shade is?”

Eranah nodded her head sagely. “One who has infused oneself with the essence of the Shadowfell.”

“Correct. My own people are born the true scions of the Shadowfell, but all who are shades have become so through dark rituals, and Legion is no exception.”
“Did you know him before he became a shade?” queried Eranah.

“No. Legion is old… how old I am not exactly certain. But perhaps even older than you, in all your lifetimes.”

“How did you come to know him then?”

“I am an exile, and he is the cause of it.”

Eranah took on a sympathetic look but said nothing, waiting for Morpheus to continue. Once the monk knew he was not being pitied, he continued, his eyes took on a faraway look. “For my people, there is no greater gift from The Raven Queen than that of ‘The Sight.’ It is only the women who receive it, and so our witches are held in the highest esteem. My great aunt was one of the most powerful witches we Shadar-Kai have ever known. Upon her death, she now serves in the court of The Final Judge.”

In complete surprise to himself, Morpheus continued on, his voice rarely rising above a whisper.

“Since our witches do not bear progeny, their gifts are typically passed on to the eldest niece; in this case my mother. Or, rather, she expected it to be so. After waiting for her to achieve the age of majority, she was tested for the sight… it was inconclusive. For years, she thought she would eventually be gifted… but that time never came. When she realized as an adult she would never manifest the Sight, she married my father and bore his children. She never fully recovered, however, remaining melancholy all her days until eventually she killed herself.”

Eranah let out a slight gasp, but the ghostwalker did not notice.

“As for the shade, ‘Legion’ is not his real name… it is the name given to him by his master, whose identity I know not. We encountered each other when he came to our home, hoping to obtain an audience with my great aunt. We did not appreciate his presence in our home, as we Shadar-Kai bear much righteous anger towards shades. Nevertheless, my father was intrigued enough to ask why he should want such a meeting. He claimed that his divinations led him to us, that a witch of our family would know the ritual necessary to reverse the magic done to become a shade.”

“You think he means to return to being human?” Eranah asked.

“I cannot know that his origin is human, to be honest,” responded the monk. “But it seems likely.”

“So what happened, then?”

Morpheus’ eyes took on a hard look. “My father could arrange no such meeting; my great aunt was beyond us now… but Legion would not be denied. He believed my father was merely being difficult and needed… persuasion. He framed my father, making it look like he was in collaboration with a particularly vicious group of shades known as They Who Sit Above in Shadow. He threatened to reveal to all of our city, Gloomwrought, these false ties unless my father got him an audience with my great aunt…”

Morpheus swallowed hard. Without even realizing it, Eranah had taken his hand in hers. To his ultimate surprise, Morpheus did not pull it away.

“My father tried. When he appeared before the Raven Queen, I am sure he was not found wanting for his effort. But the task was simply beyond him. When he eventually returned, no further ahead then he was, the shade went berserk. He seemed equal parts rage, fear, and desperation; his wrath was vicious. He cruelly made my father’s ties with Those Who Sit Above in Shadow public knowledge to all of Glomwrought then captured my younger sister’s soul in an artefact. He swore to never let her die and pass on to her destiny unless we get him the audience he needs. Then he vanished.”

Eranah squeezed his hand. Morpheus stared at it but still did not pull away.

“My father became a pariah,” the monk continued. “No one would speak with us, trade with us, or have any contact. The strain of having lost his wife, his daughter and all know the framing… it was too much for him. I came home from the monastery one day to find my father hanging from the rafters. With no one to turn to, and all thinking I am in league with shades, I left the Shadowfell. I wandered for a while until I met a kindred spirit. We joined the same organization and have been on many adventures since,” he finished, his thoughts lost to the past and his partnership with an ally now long lost.

Coming back to his senses, he continued. “I eventually met up with a mercenary group and journeyed with them on several adventures. One of which led us to seek advice from a ‘necrotic consultant’… who turned out to be Legion. I…
That night I snuck into his room, prepared to kill him for all the agony he has brought upon me and mine. But he is a cunning creature, I will give him that. And, I think, a desperate one. Each person’s ritual to become infused with shadow is different, so it is difficult to catalogue beyond mere generalizations. But I suspect there is something to Legion’s he was not aware of… I believe whatever it is, it is the cause for him wanting to break free from his former master’s influence.”

“How do you know this?” Eranah queried.

“He was expecting me. He remains as desperate as ever to meet the witch of our clan, and I believe it is for good reason, though naturally, he would not share the details. He says his former master has the artifact holding my sister’s soul. He swears he will help retrieve it if I can arrange for him to meet my great aunt, that he might reverse his ritual…”

He seeks redemption thought Eranah. It was a cause that was close to her heart, not uncommon amongst many deva.

With restrained emotion, Morpheus continued. “You cannot understand… for my people, the only thing that matters is the proper passing on of the soul after mortal death. For my sister to be forever denied that… is an abomination. Legion knows this. He knows I must therefore do anything and everything to make his desire reality…”

Eranah truly felt sympathy for the shadar-kai, whose soul had clearly been twisted by all he had gone through.

“…I cannot allow this man to die. If he dies, my sister is forever lost in the most literal meaning possible. Either I somehow penetrate the Final Judge’s Citadel to achieve consultation with my great aunt, or retrieve the location of my sister’s soul. This creature is the key to my sister’s freedom. We arrived here tracking one of the soul fragments, but…”

Covering their joined hands with her free one, Eranah leaned forward and in a hushed voice said “We are here amongst good people, Morpheus. We will restore your sister, you have my word as a paladin of Rao.” And by doing so, I will see this shade cured of his self-inflicted affliction and his soul redeemed she thought to herself.

Morpheus looked directly at the deva and whispered “Only he knows how to track the fragments of the artifact. Please allow him to do so until such a time as I know enough to free my sister. Please keep him alive long enough for this to happen.”

“I promise.”

“There is one more thing,” Morpheus whispered, bowing his head. “Should I fall in battle, and my sister lost forever…”

“Yes?” asked Eranah, glad to have made his acquaintance and hopeful of her role to come.

When he raised himself up again, all emotion was gone, and he snatched his hand back from the embrace it was in. His voice was flat and deadly.

“… kill him immediately that I may pursue and hound him throughout the afterlife!”

Eranah did not wish to lie to the monk and so just lowered her head and prayed to Rao for the wisdom to heal all souls involved in this terrible tragedy.

Author: Neil