Nadirn. Krinn. Winston. Vox. Occam. Mercy. The combined personal experiences of six men swirled and screamed in his head, each vying for attention, each desperate to show more horrors and express more rage. The rage. So much anger, all thrashing and clawing at Flynn’s mind. The bard sat cross-legged on the basement floor, nothing but cold and silence, while in his head a burning storm of shrieking hot fury assaulted his every waking thought.
Chief among the long-forgotten memories of resentment was the overwhelming hatred of… him. Winston The Golden, prophet of The Landlord, a name that now filled Flynn with a most disarming terror. He had looked into the eyes of pure, unfettered hate, and those eyes had looked back unblinking. He had to be stopped. Whatever crimes the Lich Lord had committed, Flynn was convinced that he was at least not insane… not in a conventional sense. Winston was powerful, influential, and above all mad. Driven to the brink by almost two centuries of resentment. Flynn was sure of that, if nothing else.
But between them stood the only thing that could match Winston’s anger. The Profane. Now a shambling husk, a hollow shell with a flicker of loathing floating around inside, too small to be called a soul, yet more intense in its wrath than any being should be capable of. Flynn had felt his loathing too. It was a sad feeling. A pitiable mockery of human emotion, clinging weakly to ancient flesh. Elven children still scare each other with tales of the Lendelwood Butcher, and the bard knew enough to understand that fear was well founded. He couldn’t bring himself to feel it, however. He couldn’t even make himself despise the man, despite his crimes and horrors. He pitied him, more than anything else. Flynn had seen the Butcher’s life and death. He’d experienced his reawakening. There was nothing in that dark-hearted killer but wretchedness and sorrow. For all his wickedness, Vox had endured the worst possible punishment – he had to suffer himself, and not even death let him escape the torment of being Vox.
Was that why Flynn pitied Vox? Really? He had asked himself this. Was he simply telling himself he pitied that creature, or was it more that he empathized with him? Like Vox, Flynn too was now a dead thing, ostracized and confused and alone. His friends had told him as much that they didn’t see their old companion anymore. They saw a blasphemy, a disease to be cured or stamped out entirely. And sometimes, just sometimes, Flynn wondered if it would be easier to simply become the thing they expected him to be. The killer. The creature. The butcher. Flynn had wanted to slaughter those arrogant, pious fools at the Halls of the Valiant. It’s what Vox would have done. And it would have been so very satisfying.
Flynn sighed. Maybe he deserved a stake through the heart after all.
Brand and Diogenes were plotting something. They made no secret of it. They were confident that they would “get their friend back” by any means necessary. Flynn was sure of it. Part of him wanted to stop them – he had grown used to this power, and he did not want to just give it up. He balked at the idea of the Keymaster and the druid stealing his strength from him, robbing him of his newfound abilities. Part of him wanted nothing more than to be rescued, to be the old Flynn Flashwood again and have the trust of his friends back.
But Flynn had done… questionable things… to get where he was. He feared a return to normalcy, because if he had to step out into the light, it would shine on all those dark, dark things he’d had to do. And then there would be more lies, more shame, more guilt. All the things he’d said goodbye to, the crippling things that had gnawed at him in life. He’d hate himself for what he’d done. The morals ignored, the laws violated. Flynn would come to loathe what he’d allowed himself to be.
And then… then he’d truly be no better than Vox.