No matter what I do, it feels like I’m only growing further away from these people I want so desperately to call my friends. I wasn’t born with Lysav’s looks, Zhen’s strength, or Deckard’s confidence. I don’t possess Tessera’s moral compass, Caresse’s sense of purpose, or Azrael’s good heart, and it’s no use pretending I’m better than I am. Long ago, my words became my sword and my shield – cutting scraps of bread out of a merchant’s good heart, protecting me against the slurs of my betters. Sons walking with their fathers would glance at me laying in an alley and sneer at how weak and alone I looked. So I hardened my heart against them, turning my rage inward. If they were going to look down upon me anyway, so be it. It’s better that they never see my weakness.
My father raped my mother and left her to die. My first act in this world was to take her life as she birthed me, her last breath cursing me and leaving me nameless. This group of people is the first family that I’ve ever known, and so I’ve tried to protect them the only way I know how – with my words. Striking deals with Farri, talking our way out of execution, bargaining with Max at the arena, getting information from the velvet dagger, even selling my soul to a demon god to save the lives of three of our members. That’s the only thing I can do to help, and they hate me for it, reviling me at every turn for the choices I’ve made.
But I stand behind those choices because we’re all still alive. I don’t do good things because “they’re the right thing to do.” I can’t prove I’m a good person through selfless desires, like saving an innkeepers boy or putting my life on the line for a random girl we find in the woods. I take whatever course of action I think will help the people I love survive. And I know I get a lot of things wrong. But Caresse and I would have died in that last fight if not for Jashin’s power. And if we had died, Azrael would have died. And if she had died, Deckard and Tessera and Estelle would have died too. And I won’t allow that to happen, even if it destroys my immortal soul.
But I won’t allow that to happen either. I will keep fighting, using every tool at my disposal – my words, my blood oath, and this growing draconic magic I barely understand which scares me even more than it does my allies. In the heat of battle, it’s like my nightmares congeal around me, and a primal lust for power and revenge springs forth. I think of my faceless father, that guard captain, and the man from my dreams who bites into my neck with his humming blade… But one day I will become powerful enough to control this magic. Powerful enough to wrench my soul back from Jashin’s clutches. Powerful enough to take the revenge that is my only birthright. But until then I will use this power to defend the only family I’ve ever had.
And yet… maybe they don’t want me to. They clearly distrust me. All I want is their approval. For one of them to tell me I’m worth something. I want them to recognize that I care in my own way. That I’m a good person. But they only make me feel terrible. Unnecessary at best, evil at worst. And when I feel that way I lash out with my wit, and it only pushes us further away. The ultimate irony is that perhaps I got too good at pretending I don’t care, pretending to be so glib all the time, and now my traveling companions can’t see how deeply they matter to me. Or maybe they do see and it doesn’t matter to them. Maybe going without friends for so long, without knowing what it means to love or be loved, made me care too much – more than anybody should – about my friends. I wish I didn’t because it tears me up inside.
I allowed myself to believe that this group of people was my future, but maybe I was just imagining that they care about me because I wished for it so desperately. There I go again, caring more than I should and pretending I don’t and messing it all up for myself. I’m caught between two extremes – of wanting to know them forever, and wanting to walk away here and now. I love them so much that the last thing I ever want is for them to see through my smug facade and laugh at the scared child lying in an alleyway.
I’m so exhausted of living this way, because I know it’s my fault for feeling like this. I just don’t know how to be different. So I’ll keep fighting for them until my spirit breaks. There’s nothing else I can do.