I felt conflicted, putting together the traps for Fordrellon. Even while I knew I had the materials on hand to make them deadly, I didn’t, only construing traps of binding and holding. It would slow him, but it wouldn’t stop him.
Did I want to stop him?
In the back of my mind I knew it would always come to this: eventually I would run out of places to hide, and I would be hunted until a paladin’s sword slid its way through my ribs. I just hadn’t expected to feel this way about it.
Consciously, I had always hated Fordrellon. He had always been a foil in my plans, and even when he served me, he had been the annoying buzz of conscience, like a gnat that would not leave the vicinity of my ear. I was also just a little afraid of him.
Now, I felt only sorrow, seeing how far he had fallen – how far down I had dragged him.
I watched from afar as he took the latest bait and blundered into a boggy pool that sucked his plate-clad self down to almost his chest. I had delved the depths of that bog myself, quite by accident, and knew it only went to the neck at the deepest part, but I was still taken aback by a sudden fear he would be sucked under and drown. Whatever else was between us, surely he didn’t deserve that as his final fate.
But I kept to my tree, for soon he popped up again, out of the slimy water, and he screamed and screamed into the sky — epithets I didn’t even knew he knew, all steeped in hatred for me.
I felt horrible in that moment. Irredeemable. It was good my cover was so well crafted, as I think I would have sat and let him walk right up to me and slay me, thinking him justified the whole way.
Eventually he remembered his place and I remembered mine. He drug himself out of the bog and away, and I took myself down out of the tree and in the other direction.
It occurred to me that night in full how the poisoning of a mind works. I had seen it before in my experiments, where one hint of disgruntlement or low morale would poison the whole batch. Yet it never came so clear to me as then, when I saw how I had, inadvertently, unhinged a mighty paladin of Carro. I felt responsible for his fall into madness, even while I knew what had happened to him after he left my service had not been under my control.
Was this conscience, to wonder if, on some level, it was my responsibility to put things to rights? I had done a piss-poor job on the Lord Baenarn. I had no illusions I could somehow put Fordrellon’s psyche back together while actively wanted to kill me.
Yet these thoughts spurred me to turn my eastward journey back to Hillet. I might not have had my magic, but I did have my cunning, and I still remembered where I had stashed the artifacts I had stolen from the Cabal. I just had to think of how to put it all to best use.