(A giant ink blot shows on the top of the page and trickles down the center of the book. There are a few other stains and smudges on the page of various colors.)
It has been 5 years since the last desperate long winter, the last time that I thought I would have to face the rest of my life alone in Birya. It has been 4 since I wrote here at all, except for scraps of memories that were thrown away. It looks to the reader as if those years never existed. Perhaps it should have been that way.
I loved her. I love her. I don't even know anymore what to feel. It all made a glorious amount of sense, as if the heavens themselves opened up...and then proved, after walking into the pearly Gates, that nothing had been changed at all. As if Heaven itself were just another run in the same world one just left (perhaps in peace). It was all a lie. But it can't have been anyone's fault - no, not at all.
Anyway, I get ahead of myself, as I always do. First, an accounting of the current state of affairs, before continuing.
Iili, senior Ritual Mage of the Vista Hospice, location in the Noocracy "Republic" (Plutocracy by any other name) of Wyvernbight, small rotund gray mouse starting to gray yet further into white, alas. As ever before, increasingly wealthy in material, but spiritual wealth always begging for assistance.
I have grown older. It is traditional at this part to say that I have grown wiser, but I cannot speak those words in this case. If anything, I have grown less wise and more obstreperous than ever before to make up for all of it. And now I'm facing yet another long winter, with in many ways less hope than before. And it's no one's fault, not even my own, I believe. It is just a state of affairs, a known thing, another tabula rasa.
I have ended up in the Westlands yet again, despite every promise I made to myself that I would never deal with the Westerners again and their fake sense of sincerity. Yet Wyvernbight has that without the sincerity - it's being false without even bothering to put a facade on it. Yet, compared to the Wastes in between, it is a faithful home of many, including several competing dragons (more on that later)...
Why am I here? I've been asking myself that for months. All because of her that I left Birya's darkened comforts and known alleys.
So, life. Life is mostly work, but other than that I've ended up at the Scholar's Quarter of West Wyvernbight, which is perhaps a small area of respite for me - I see the eager students pass by and through the streets on a regular basis, and this part of the city is lively - if extremely dingy, even by Birya standards. But it's about as close to home as I would get without surrendering yet more of my possessions and my history and going back. And then there's that lion.
And work... the Hospice is terrible territory for a mage. All the worst things you could put together in one location: the innate cautiousness and meticulous nature of a Hospice, where mistakes in magic may not be fatal, but can come close; the Byzantine nature of an Academy, with the various factions and schemes; and the resistance to change and time of a Crown organization. So, in short, you can't do anything; no one wants you to do anything; and it's fine, because you don't want to do anything anyway. (Well, most don't. I can't stop from intervening (whining).)
Except when something breaks. Not when it is on the verge of breaking, mind you (an awkward comparison to the practice of medicine itself in these times), but when it is broken and bleeding all over the floor of your Grove and why haven't you fixed it already. It is madness. All of my time in the Bight has been madness of one shade or another. I am growing weary, and perhaps desperate for some sign that any of my travails have proved of any worth at all. I fight and I fight and I fight and I get nowhere at all. Why.
Why am I here? It was chance, circumstance, luck that any of this came together, and chance that it all fell apart. At least that's what I keep telling myself. The possible alternatives are just too hideous.