Notes from the Bedside Table of Dr. Arden Thatch

(A loaded ink pen sits on top of a pile of papers. Some of them are doodled on, others have pieces of new theses, but one is covered in unsteady writing uncharacteristic of Dr. Thatch. It is buried at the bottom of the stack, out of sight, as if he had been trying to forget it and the words it held.)

This will not be easy to write, but I hope that getting the words out will somehow make me feel better. Unlikely, but it’s worth a try.

I’ve done my best to try to remain calm over the last few days. Through all I’ve witnessed, I think I’ve done well to keep at least a semblance of calm about me. I managed to tell both Quinn and Lissa about meeting the hag mothers without panicking over the choices I made. I accepted them so easily, so readily, after spending my entire life cursing their very existence. Before I knew what I was and what fate had truly befallen my unfortunate father, I cursed them both for leaving me all on my own. As I got older and understood the situation, I still blamed whoever my mother was for my isolation, but it came with a modicum of fear as well.

Perhaps writing about that would help as well.

I am incredibly envious of the others. Hearing Kamraz speak of his parents so lovingly, knowing that he grew up safe and loved and lived the life I had always so desperately wanted makes my heart ache. Renata, speaking of her mother and brother, somehow manages to make me feel warm inside while still feeling hollow. Yes, I’ve found companions and colleagues that I’ve become somewhat close with, but I wouldn’t call them family. Lissa would perhaps be the closest, but I hesitate to even call her such. Sometimes I blame how easily I shift from one identity to the next, becoming a new person each time my world collapses around my ears. I’d been Arden the longest — I had used the name more than once, both as a given name and a surname. After I had learned to read and had gotten my hands on one of the many tales of the Chosen Seven and their compatriots I briefly went by the name of Sirarin. I thought taking even a piece of one of their names would inspire a confidence boost. However, Sirarin never truly felt like me, as much as I wanted her to. Ah, I’ve begun to stray from the topic again.

This desire for family of my own has led me to make a number of suspect choices over the years, though none as egregious as accepting the power of the hag mothers. Why the hell did I think it was okay for them to call me “daughter of night, bringer of the end” after I had just heard that gorgeous man prophesize the same thing? (As an aside, I really must apologize for my behavior that night should we meet again. I can’t hold him responsible for allowing fate to use him as a mouthpiece. It’s not as if Baniti himself directly called me the downfall of the world.) Now, here I am with an eye that doesn’t let me have a peaceful night’s rest anymore and a rock that does gods-only-knows-what when it collects souls. Good job, Thatch, you’ve really managed to step in it this time.

All of that has been weighing down on me heavily enough, but then…

(There are a few lines scribbled out, some smudged with what looks like droplets of water.)

I died.

Haven’t managed to say it aloud yet, but I’ve written it now. I’ll call that progress.

There I was, so distracted by the possibility of finally getting to see who the mysterious Sorshen is, that I completely let my guard down. I guess you could say I was so excited I lost my head! (I have been instantly filled with regret over that joke but I’ll leave it because that’s the closest I’ve come to acknowledging what happened. Poor Dyrnwyn, though. I think the poor sod is taking it worse than I am, and that’s saying something. I’ve yet to have a proper night’s sleep, or at least one where I don’t dream about a cold blade against my throat. I haven’t told Lissa yet what happened. That would require me admitting that it happened. Also admitting that I’m terrified. It happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to do more than whisper a spell and pray it worked.

I tried throwing myself back into my research as a distraction, but even that holds little interest for me now. I’ve learned so much about the Seven that directly contradicts what I had previously thought true that I can’t bring myself to read that drivel any longer. I did try praying, following what I now know to be the correct way. Apparently there’s a whole ceremony to it with kneeling and doorways and reflecting on changes that have happened and those yet to come. It’s rather cathartic, actually, except for the part that I found myself wondering if the separation of my head from my neck was perhaps a change that I should’ve been more welcoming of.

I really shouldn’t be alone. The dark thoughts are worse when I’m alone.

I’ve taken to wearing scarves indoors now. Every time I’ve seen my bare neck in a mirror I’ve expected to see a scar or, worse yet, a fresh wound. The scarves help. I don’t think about it as much if I can’t see it.

At least I haven’t tried drowning my sorrows in drink again. Don’t have Vesper here to sober me back up if I go overboard.

Part of me wants to go find them, take comfort in knowing they’re whole, safe, alive. They’ve all got their own things to do, though. I’ll leave them be for now.

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