Garth had no joy. He had not been able to take part in the raid. There had not been any invaders to repel. All that had been given to him was peace and quiet.
He would have preferred death. Someone else’s. His own. It didn’t matter.
The troops came back and he was left on guard duty.
There was a disturbance in the camp and he remained on guard duty.
The camp packed up and left as quickly as frightened rabbits, and he guarded a shrine which no one prayed at anymore.
Or almost no one.
“We’ll go to ground,” Cyanwrath said, as he went through the motions of venerating whatever spirit it was he prayed to. “I hate it too, but we’re not ready for another massive assault. We’d need to get our transporters back, or replace them, first. So we’ll hide for a while, gauge where the money flees to, and strike again when we’ve rebuilt our forces.”
Garth heard the words and didn’t care. The spirit that had slithered inside him and filled him with strength and rage seemed to be a servant of the one Cyanwrath worshipped, but Garth felt no love for any of them.
All he could feel was…
Adventurers blundered into the shrine.
Cyanwrath was the first to act and his battle cry brought the red surging up to wash away the grey.
The battle was furious and loud and everything Garth needed. He lost himself within it in less than a moment.
Before the red could fade though, something changed.
“Fight…our side…” an elf spoke to him and her words bound the red and the grey together, stripping them away, or making them something more. Garth couldn’t tell, and couldn’t begin to care.
The razor spirit that lived within him went silent. It couldn’t resist the elf’s words anymore than Garth could.
He fought then, with his eyes open, rejoicing in his new friends.
To the elf who invite him, Garth felt gratitude.
To the halfling he healed him, Garth felt appreciation.
To the changeling who took Cyanwrath’s form, Garth felt respect.
And to the human who had stood against the worst blows that Cyanwrath could throw, Garth felt awe.
There was something within the Paladin, something that didn’t burn with the red of fire, but still pushed back the gray and turned the world a brilliant white.
Each of them was precious to Garth as no one had been since his parents had last drawn breath.
Until suddenly they weren’t.
The elf cast a spell and the red and the grey warred within him as the magic that bound his thoughts faded.
Garth wanted to reach out, to reclaim the feelings he had forgotten could ever exist but it was too late. He was cast from his own body by the razor spirit, rage erupting from the scars across his soul as Tiamat’s Soul Scorcher claimed him and turned his axe on the people who had, for a moment at least, offered respite from the colorless world around him.
“Fight…with us,” the elf said again. This time there was no magical force behind her words. No power that could bind the Soul Scorcher.
Nothing that Garth could do.
Through eyes that now belonged to the Soul Scorcher, he saw the elf, standing spent and desperate but still reaching out to him.
He saw the changeling ready to match blade against blade to defend his friends.
He saw the halfling and felt the promise of her god. Without words, she offered the peace he had always craved. The final peace. The one gift given to all mortals to end every sorrow, and every pain.
But there was another offer as well.
The paladin stood before him as well. Blocking the rush of their enemies forces. Burning bright despite his age, the brilliant power within him calling to parts of Garth’s soul which still remembered the kindly hearth spirits of his youth, and the desire for justice that had slept within him ever since the loss of his parents.
“You are not yet lost.” The voice that spoke within him shook the earth. Garth was blinded by sheer force of it. Around him he could feel a presence coiled the stars coiling around the night sky. “What do you wish to do?”
“I want to see again,” Garth said. “Like I used to. Like I just did.”
“Why,” Bahamut asked.
“The world should be more,” Garth said. “I should be more. I should be better.”
He felt the brush of his mother’s fingers on his cheek and the clasp of his father’s hand on his shoulder.
“You have been a weapon,” Bahamut said. “What do you wish to be?”
“More,” Garth said. “Like my father. Like my mother.”
“Nothing that is yours shall be taken from you then,” Bahamut said. “But go, with my blessing. Your rage shall be your own, and your joy, and your sorrow too, and as you do good with them, you shall honor the freedom I now grant you.”
And with that, Garth’s eyes opened.
They were his once more.
The Soul Scorcher was gone.
All of the spirits of sickness and hate and misery were torn from him.
The wounds they left behind remained. Only time could heal those, time and friendship, but it was with eyes that saw every color of the spectrum that Garth turned back to the adventurers and was able to nod, “Aye, I will fight by your side!”, before bellowing his warcry and letting his true barbarian rage carry him onwards to battle!