How far would you go?
The answer was far enough. He’d left a note, he’d found someone, anyone to give it to and promised himself he wasn’t going closer to the mountains than he had to. He would not pose that risk again, even if the fear of it seems blown out of proportion, though his nights of rest and lack thereof were catching up with him. He can feel the bags under his eyes, he can feel sleep tugging at him at all hours of the day. For days he’s waking up to an upright position somewhere along the cliff faces of the Hollow, almost ready to jump into the blackwater below. Dreams of serpents and monsters that haunt him in the nighttime, dreams of dragons slithering somewhere beyond the depth of his sight.
It frightens him. He freely admits it to himself, but not to anyone else — he sees the way they look at him. The fear they hide behind they way they try and look at him with such care and understanding. Hope, but hope tinged with tragedy. He’s seen that before.
The scrape of the wood under his hand grounds him from these thoughts at least. He’s no woodworker, but he knows his way around a knife, a shaver, a forge. The sanding down of a rifle stock was much different than using a knife to whittle shapes, it was repetitive, hard work that ached best when he could go no further in his day. And still, he’d return. Gladly so, he’d get over his waypoint sickness in minutes and head back towards his chamber to have more strange dreams, more sunken, waterlogged visions. He would get up once again, awoken by warm winds and a small game of Rabbit, Hare to get his bearings. Yesterday it was a wall by the tavern. Today it was the steps to Commander Bordren’s office.
Today, he scrapes and scrapes and scrapes under the guidance of a charr he’d met in this endeavor, who provides him a forge, a workshop, all for small fees, for work. Honest work. Good work. And slowly, the rifle takes shape, driven forward by the thorn and whip of visions he doesn’t understand, a need and urge he can’t place a root to.
And still, he cannot find his pace, his itch.
“You should go home, Ironwood”
The gruff voice of the craftsman breaks his concentration, how his hand is turning white with the grip on the fine sandpaper on the barrel of this killing machine. He’s staring at him with yellow eyes, the look of a beast that’s seen this before. “You’ll ruin that gun if you keep working it”
He doesn’t reply. All he can do is nod and shoulder the monster over his shoulder and head back down the road towards the waypoint, his head filling with the thoughts he’d put off for the day. Not thinking was the best remedy, but when he became idle the beasts inside those mental corners begin to leak out of the shadows.
When he falls asleep that night, he has teeth. He bares them proudly and viciously, and his dreams are draped in sheets of crimson. Deadly, efficient. How far would you go? Not far enough. The whisper comes in a voice he recognizes but cannot understand, the fear of it, the anger and hurt. Black and silver and red and green and bone and black and rot —
The start nearly sends him over the edge of the bridge and into the water below. He can taste blood in his mouth. The weight of a pistol in his hand.