The Dream is not over just yet
An audience with Death itself can lead to some strangely beautiful things.
Let us picture one moment that we don't find ourselves in a wall of screaming and instead we find ourselves in a black tower that shifts colorfully in emotion. Now also picture that you find yourself in an audience with the very thing that gave you your powers, though there was still some bit of distance to it. Fear was the first emotion, not because there was a godly entity in front of you, but because... well... you just died, and you were very very sure that the last thing that you remember was getting your soul torn into pieces in the last moments of your life.
Well, if you want to know the story behind that, it gets a bit more and more complicated.
I can tell you for sure that not every cleric gets this kind of opportunity in their tenure. I found myself in the Fortress of Memories, a black tower with howling winds and a myriad of souls that file around as if in a lined up queue. I found that the room that I woke up in was, in a sense, a lot more massive than it was made out to be. Right in front of me, there was a large black veil hiding a large and imposing figure. Right in front the veil, fully visible, is an elf... same as Shantelle... a Shadar-kai acting as the speaker for the Queen. The most common emotion after fear of not seeing friends again... was confusion. The presence of the Queen was heavy with weight and it made me kneel---No! Not that... It was as if I was used to being the one kneeling. As the visage of the room shifted with the emotion of the enigmatic figure before me, I was, in some strange way in awe.
I guess I know how Keinen felt about Ilmater now, but honestly, Ilmater is not a god of death.
I could then hear the elf speaker speak again. The Queen has taken notice of my call and deeds, but there is a moment in which I was also told that I could not go back to the living world. It appears that my soul was both saved and sundered at the same time. However, before I could get it back somehow, I was tasked with tracking down a mask that house the memories and conscience of a traitor, at the time in possession of an agent of a powerful undead being by the name of the Whispered One in a place called the Rotted Heart. However, I was not to go there empty and alone. I was in the Fortress of Memories, a place in the desolate gloom of the Shadowfell, and I was instructed to think upon some pleasant memories... or at least one that was significant enough. When I looked back up from my kneeling position, I saw Theodore and Velu behind me while looking back. Suffice it to say, it was shocking...
We did eventually get to the undead stronghold. We took some time to set up a Telepathic Bond and with a few Dimension Doors and some creative liberties, we found ourselves in front of a three-headed undead. In his hand was the mask, made from mithril. However, through some wrangling, we managed to get the mask and make our way out.
There was another task after the one with the mask. I was to head to the place where my shadow lies, in a fortress made to house... regret. I was told that because my shadow was already in there, I would have an easy time to enter the Negative Plane, and I could bring Theodore and Velu with me too... but if I mess up... I could lose them forever. I don't want to go away. I don't want to be alone again. Failure was never an option.
I was tasked with bringing back a bronze orb within the Fortress of Regrets, but I was warned that I might find my shadow--- my lost half--- within. Sure enough, I found it... I'm scared... Something unsettling about seeing a living mirror of yourself--- something you imagine conversing with when no one else is watching--- with people who you consider friends watching as every mistake you've made become personified standing in front of you. That was the thing that I saw. I saw my sisters standing behind it, and I also saw... him... right beside it. I dreaded this moment for nearly eleven years. I imagined what I would say to this person, and what this person would say to me back in a sort of macabre echo. I was already dead... but I also had the potential to just... stop existing.
She looked back at me. I looked at her. I was about to scream but I tried to compose myself before I stepped up. She said she hated me... she was right. She said that we did not need emotions with what we are capable of doing... she was right about that as well. However, I felt that I could just walk up, even when a sinister dagger was pointed to me. She and I knew what we both wanted... even with the vitriol that oozes out. Once she laughed, I felt like laughing. Once she smiled, I felt like smiling.
We were one and the same. She is a shadow. She walks with me and was there where I go. I am her and she is me. Even if I wanted to deny it, she is right. I denied everything and at the end, on a journey lasting eleven years, I finally have an answer. In order to see them again, I need to be whole... and I can't be whole if my mistakes cannot be taken with me. I could see why the Raven Queen wanted the sphere now. It was a jewel that if one were to polish and refine and clean off the muck, it would shine even with imperfections.
I am now whole.
In a place that none should live, after a cold embrace... I strangely felt... warm...