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Day 1 - Changing, drinking, sleeping it off.
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Augh!

Day 2 - After shopping before auction
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It wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be all pretty drow and faerie fire and She went and screwed it all up. She's just sat there, meditating like everything's normal and fine while I'm staring at the instructions for yet another packet of bloody herbs. She even had the cheek to say it was like when she woke up as Alex. It's nowhere near! Waking up with an erection is Normal. Feeling anxious and stressed and angry about stuff that isn't even my fault, is Not Normal. And this is just a precursor to 'Pain and Bleeding' Even more so than adventuring usually is. And then Laura's telling me that... every second, I should be watching for the Bad Men that might attack me. I can't believe people think like that, just walking around! This is horrible and wrong and there's no easy way of fixing things quickly without taking time out of the much more important scrollmaking for the final push. How'm I supposed to sing like this? I get scared when I catch myself in the mirror, and then this bloody Drow looks panicky and I breathe again and try to smile and she smiles and, then... it's almost OK. It's OK if I know I'm going to see her. It's a thousand times worse than the drastic new haircut stranger in the mirror. I don't see me at all, there's just a drow that moves when I do. Who am I now? We have to fix this. I can't fight like this, I can't fight a dragon like this. The sodding crossbow's too small now, and the dragonmark's nearly all flaked off. How can she just sit there, breathing, after doing this to me?

Day 3 - After auction
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The auction went OK, I guess. I got a book to repair the damage the Deck of Woe did. Well, some of the damage. I sent Rachel back to the hostel so I can try and find my feet. Yeah, because that's really likely. Yes, I understand what to do with rags, or maybe prestadigitation. No, I won't panic. Yes, I'll be fine. I just don't want to burst into tears at her again. I shouldn't feel upset when she did this to me! But I tried to apologise for being so scary-mad the other day and I just fell apart. It's only Rachel but it's Rachel and she just looked at me and she didn't say 'It was OK' like she was supposed to, and it isn't OK, not by a long way. She's all fine, swanning off to play happy elves with Kalphan Riak and that didn't bother me before so why am I upset now? Bloody Jaik bought the rings I was going to give her as a present by way of apology, so that's buggered, and she's off on a date with Izmir of the Bar Stewards. I was going to do that! So she goes stealing my date, not that I want to go out on a date like this with... hm, well, anyway and Jaik steals the rings so he and Laura can go play happy happy families. And I guess that's kind of OK, but I did want them for me, for her. At least I can go find House Mroranon to get something similar. Bloody Dwarves. The ugly, hairy silversmith looked at me like he was surprised I walked upright, let alone could speak Mrorspra and discuss non-shom jewellery. I had to flounce away from there in a bit of a hurry as well. Still, I've got a book. I can read a book, I can maybe work out a bit in the gym at Deathsgate, if I don't get my throat slit, or worse. They said I'd feel better in a few days, and they'd better be right.

Days 4-9 Reading a book.
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Oh. I was thinking it was going to be like Carrie, or something. That's just weird, and a bit uncomfortable and occasionally twingy, but... Yeah. Weird. It's okay unless I think like it's this body trying to prepare itself to bear children, and then it's very weird and strange and a bit wrong-feeling again. And... what was I thinking the last few days? That was way stranger than letting Milo drive, that was like I was spiky and twitchy and... oh hell, I hope I didn't actually tell them that it was all wrong. The woman in the mirror smiles and says "I'm sorry, it was all a bit of a shock, I hope I didn't say anything too stupid". She sighs. "Not stupid, bad". I stop and watch her for a while as she watches me. She is lovely. I lean closer, making her pull faces at me, smiling, scowling, trying things on. "Why do women fake orgasms, Fatty? Because they think men care." The drow in the mirror sighs and shakes her head. I'm being ridiculous. Alex coped for months. Autok Fatty seems to be thriving more than Fatty ever did. I can cope with this at least as long as Alex did. I start to look away and so does she, but we catch each others eye and smile before moving to the table to open the book.

Chapter One: The Importance of Optimism. In which we outline why a positive attitude is both inspiring and endearing to others.

Yeah, that's pretty sensible stuff. I can cope. What's positive about this situation. The drow in the mirror smiles at me. Yes, well. "You, sweetie, are a work of art". Certainly there's worse places to be. I'm tall, I look fabulous. She clears her throat and hums a few notes of a scale experimentally before singing "I love myself, I want you to love me. When I'm feelin' down, I want you above me". The drow in the mirror blushes kind of purpley across her cheeks and coughs slightly. Yes, I can fascinate myself with bardic mojo. Great.

Chapter Two: Forgive and Forget. In which we illuminate the benefits of moving beyond past blunders, calamity and hurts precipitated by others.

It's not her fault at all. She tried to do what I wanted, and... I think she really succeeded. Not quite what I planned, but I certainly am one pretty, pretty elf. And I don't think she did this deliberately, it's just... well, wow. Would I be being vain to rank myself among one of the things Rachel was called back here to create? The woman in the mirror laughs. "Sure, it's not the plane-saving dragon-gate she's here for, it's me." The drow pauses, looking at me. I remember Alex liking elves, and being mightily confused. I remember Rachel looking awkward when I asked if she was glad we hadn't found some magic girdle of switchiness. Oh. I hadn't given it much thought as Gervais the halforc or Carl the secondborn. I remember thinking she was pretty, but... not like dwarven shoulders can be pretty, and a head rub, well, no, it never even came up - she was an elf for heaven's sake. But now? Now, she's an *elf*. A Pretty Elf. Ohh. The drow in the mirror blushes.

Chapter Three: Give Yourself Away. How Charity and Philanthropy foster positivity and initiate other favourable situations.

I'm offering myself already as a vessel for Irrasha and Katala's will to save the world. Great, we're doomed. No, no! Optimism! We will succeed. We will plan and we will have a getout and if it goes bad we'll regroup and do better another day. I'll go get some of those rings and she can have them. If she wants to give one to Kalphan Riak, she can. If that's what she wants to do. Maybe I'm too pretty? Or maybe I've soured this dream of beauty by behaving like an arse for 48 hours. She did say it was hard for her to see me like this...
The drow in the mirror slaps the heel of her hand into her forehead and mutters something incoherent before glaring at me. "So what? If I'm doing this, and we survive, we'll sort something out. Rachel fancies me, or she doesn't fancy me. Find a daisy and pluck the petals." She takes a deep breath and sighs exasperatedly. She sighs like I do.

Chapter Four: Know Yourself. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses in character, knowledge and skills.

Armed with a vestment of many styles and a hat of disguise I can accessorize! Go me. I can take a couple of not inconsiderably expensive magic items and some borrowed elf body and play dress-up. Maybe Beth's right and I just flit from body to body, person to person. I don't even know what's happened to Lizetta, and that's a bit remiss. I tell myself that we're too busy right now, and I'll get round to saving her or finding her after we win but part of me's glad to have the excuse not to rush back to Holt to try and sort it out. And afterwards, it'll be too late. I let her die when Singh killed her, and if she's in trouble now, it's because of me. But what should she have expected? I used to work in a call centre. If I could get away with lazing about while others did the work I would. I could sing a bit, but never really took it anywhere. I'm scared, every time a fight kicks off that one of us will die, again. I'm scared it'll be pointless and useless and whatever we're doing will fail. I can't even fight, not like the others. I'm expendable. I'm going to die, here, and the only people that will remember my name will do so because I crooned lounge tunes of old Earth into a dragonshard.
I look at the mirror and she rolls her eyes at me. "Back to Chapter One, Spookykid".
Optimism. Strength. I am a great performer. I am one of the greatest living bards this world has seen. I am loyal to my friends. I will not give up. Without me, they might survive, but with me, we are all so much better. I am as much of a pillar of support as Drenak is, we just do it differently. In this though, Rachel is the keystone of our arch. She needs to survive to build the Gate. I will get her that far, and further.
She nods to me and smiles. "Better."

Chapter Five: Know Others. They have needs, emotions, and different responses to stress.

I traipse back in from the Deathsgate athletic hall and look at my shoulders in the mirror. Something about them puts me in mind of Jocelyn flitting through the living room during a game ages ago for a walkman or something to go out running with. I shrug. The shoulders shrug. If there's some love story going on here, it was theirs, not mine. So quiet, so careful, so patiently waiting for her to see what might be. I remember watching Jaik desperately poking Alex' body with the wand without success. I remember Ren, stoic as we told her what had happened after months of worrying to suddenly be so close to Rachel, and yet, gone. I remember staggering over the rubble with my brain bleeding down my face to see that indestructible Ren wasn't. I didn't think to save Alex. The others came for me over Ren because she was so capable, so strong and I was not. I remember Rachel, quietly listening to what had happened as she'd returned to a world that never would have Jocelyn in again, if the Thoon do what we think they do. Is that the Will of the Harbingers? Atheist Carl might have scoffed. No, it's just the movement of a world, and there's joy and heartache and people winning and people losing. And what has Rachel lost? What has Jocelyn lost? I can't do much about Jocelyn, except that hope that something could intervene. But Rachel? Rachel tries, and Rachel keeps going, and Rachel dies, and Rachel comes back, and she never complains. She goes back out on point with the traps and the death rays and she dies, and returns and doesn't complain. I don't know if I could do that.

Chapter Six: Love. In communication, love and emotion are universal languages.

Sure, communication is key, building morale, projecting mood and instruction. Anticipate the needs and respond to them. Listen. I am wading through a management treatise collated by goblins and it still holds wisdom. Cherish the moment, it will not come again. Each day is a new opportunity to confront the impossible and create history. Innovate, be inventive and embrace new possibility. The Will of the Harbingers, eh? I don't think I have the right to change this. Maybe it is part of something else going on. We walk in an imperfect world, the Lady says. She's right, and it's occasionally arbitrary and pointlessly cruel and sometimes it has such wonder and joy within it. That's not all directly because some god's yanking my strings. I think Irrasha noticed that there are bad things, there are jealous and wrong things that want to screw things up and actively make it worse for people. So Irrasha says we should fight those things, and I can really get behind that. In a world where some of the badness is so unequivocally Bad, we have to fight it, how could we not? But what's Rachel doing? She's saving a world. If there's any justice, she'd get the happy ending - Sure, we all would - but she should.

I can't count on that though, the moment is all we have, isn't it? Can she have a happy moment? I hope so. And she made me like this. The Will of the Harbingers, eh? And she's pretty and good and clever and... she's better than me. If all she gets is now and all she can create is what she has done, then I should at least let her know that I'd try. I didn't expect she'd make up that stuff about Drow wedding rings, that completely threw me. And if she's not keen, that's fine too.


Day 10 - A Wedding.
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We teleport to Neveriven so Laura can marry Jaik away from nasty threat of arrest. We're met by half the Church of Irrasha including the Eilel who's going to perform the service. And Laura asks me to sing at the Temple of Irrasha in Neveriven, at her wedding. I can't really refuse, can I? They don't have any requests though, and I'm still experimenting with the voice, so I go for some easy stuff, Jaik likes Mamma Mia, and that works in a cathedral. Then Take a Chance on Me - I bet she didn't notice. The whole thing is lovely, low-key and simple and, I don't know - it feels like I imagine wartime weddings might. We want to make a statement, we want to commit, we want this to last despite what's going on around us. We want to thumb our noses at the world and make a statement. Do the Harbingers laugh at people who make plans? Thank heavens for the vestments, I think I managed a pretty good facsimile of matching bridesmaid dresses. I looked fabulous. I bet Rachel didn't even notice. Maybe I should flick through the Book again, see if I should be seizing opportunity or leading through diligent example or something.

Day 11 - Taking stock, and returning
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Oh Fucking Hell. It's all going pear-shaped before we even make a plan. Medallions? Location unknown. Cutter Drago? Location unknown. Reports of rioting, civil war and revolution in Sungiven. If we're not careful we'll teleport into the Terror. I think I need to book some fancy Scijarn beautification spa day to pretty myself up. Mm, maybe I could book 2 tickets and take Rachel. I am damned if I'm going to teleport into a warzone looking anything less than fabulous.

Time to re-learn the words to Go Narrow River.
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Lost In Navir

November 2011

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