I’m standing on the deck of an anonymous ship, leaning against the port railing. I am told it’s bound for Scotland. It gently lists from port to starboard, the bow slowly rising and falling with the motion of the sea. I watch the waves endlessly roll by, breaking occasionally against the hull, their peaks lit a crimson hue by the setting sun. I let myself get lost in my own musings, smoking my pipe. The smoke doesn’t linger long, as the wind sweeps it away before it can take any meaningful shape.
I have failed.
I failed myself. I failed my companions. I failed my sister. I failed to stop Randall Flagg, I failed to save Redwater, I failed to stop the Crawling Chaos from performing its hedonistic, genocidal ritual.
I failed to put Pandora back in her box.
Hildr seeks to console me with the thought that I accomplished something meaningful, that somehow this whole wretched horror can be seen in a positive light.
I did, after all, manage to escape with my companions and my life. Thanks in no small part to Mack and Davos and their resourcefulness. I also saved what was left of Fubar, although his recovery is somewhat in doubt. He’s breathing at the moment, which counts for something. Getting nailed to a cross should have killed the foolish saint, but his sheer tenacity seems to exceed his wisdom.
I helped get Kholodil’nik home as promised. Azriel arrived and transported him back to his native time. Which does lend itself to the theory that he finished his quest and resolved his purpose here. He left in a fiery blaze and a puff of smoke, as it were. A nod of his head is all he gave me upon his egress, but it was all I needed from him. He had given me far more than he realized, even if he was stingy with has damn cigars. Godspeed my large friend.
I stopped Nyarlathotep from completing the necessary incantations to summon Azathoth and exterminate every living thing in existence, so that’s a boon.
Alas, the entire island and every living creature therein, save us, has been lost. Randall Flagg is still alive, as is Jack and the Hatter, all three whereabouts unknown. I had resolved to save the islanders and stop those evil bastards, and I accomplished neither.
With all that was salvaged, I still failed horribly. Worse, in my blind pursuance of my goal, this machiavellian scheme came to pass.
It was I who unwittingly opened the sarcophagus of the Black Pharaoh all those years ago. It was I who was duped into helping locate and procure the pieces of the horrid Key for Flagg, at immeasurable personal cost. It was I who left a swath of collateral damage from the beginning of this toilsome journey to its grisly end.
My noisome sins are stacked high to heaven like Nebuchadnezzar’s tower for all to witness. My hands are eternally stained with the blood of the slain. I am haunted by their ghosts. And Hildr talks witlessly about redemption.
To add insult to injury I am considered dead in Arkham. All my accolades, accomplishments, archives, belongings, holdings, investments, research – all save what I physically possess and the clothes on my back – are gone. Even my name and all my personas are gone. Though, to be fair, I have had more than a few down the through the centuries, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more. My reputation is not so easily replaced, however, my station notwithstanding. But with my ears the way they are…I imagine that’s lost as well. That does make it all the easier to blend in with humanity and disappear, so I should count that as another boon I suppose.
I shall, after all, have to go into hiding with my companions. Use the name I had planned for my death, as it seems, ultimately, dead is what I am and must remain. Cuthbert Allgood isn’t such a terrible moniker. Like my namesake, Saint Cuthbert, I may yet find redemption after all.
Hildr is correct, however, on one point. I still live. And as long as I still draw breath, I may yet put a final end to the abomination I let loose.
As a sidhe, I can and will live for a very, very long time. I may have failed this time. But this is far from over.
I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.