Depression Averted

Depression Averted!
Why the 1930s?

Upon my research of the database, I came across some detailed letters and journals about a cell in Chicago during the 1930s. See, back then, the Agency was just starting to become more organized; making rules, keeping records of missions, among other things. The interest of this time period is simple, many of the vaults began being recorded during this time period. In my search to find a certain vault, I came across these two agents located in the Chicago cell. This group intrigued me greatly and not just because they claimed to have meet the founders. I will do my best to record my findings of their adventures and present them chronologically.

A grisly beauty
From the journal of Jack Valentino

I’ve given up on attempting to keep track of dates. It seems that we are to travel from world to world for some time to come. As such, it seems a moot point to think of the local time when it has been made painfully clear that time is an irrelevant concept when comparing one world to the other. So, I’ve given up. It is with great trepidation that I do so. I had attempted to keep these entries in some kind of order but, as I explained, that seems to be a fool’s errand. To make matters worse, I’m having difficulty locating my previous journal.

So, I will attempt to sum up my experience so far.

My name is Jack Valentino. I know this but, I don’t really remember much else. I know that I have certain unpleasant skills. I utilized those skills without concern for the next day’s consequences for some time before I was recruited. I was recruited by a group called the Secret Service. A group that extends back to the 1860s as far as I can tell. From what I am told and what I’ve pieced together, the group’s genesis was as some sort of secret arm of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. The Pinkertons became U.S. Marshalls and the secret service split off from the government entirely and went deeper underground.

That brings me to myself. Somehow, I am able to affect certain things. Chaos, I suppose. I’ve used it to manipulate probability in my favor. I’ve used it to cause a man’s clothing to fall into disarray. It wasted away as if hit by centuries in seconds. I even found that I held the ability to affect the special abilities of others. Anomalous abilities? Either way, the supernal has become part of my life. I’ve come to accept it without question. I have wrestled with things that looked like biblical angels and had my mind invaded by a strange woman. I have seen things that leave the supernatural question pointless. The supernatural is real. I have lived it. I am living it.

As an example, I am currently writing this from within my private bedroom within a pocket world. My companion, Victoria can open doors to other places. Places that don’t connect in any normal way. She has created a small place that as far as I can tell is a construct of her own mind. So, I theorize that when we cross the threshold of that doorway, we in fact cross into her own mind. As such, I treat my surroundings respectfully. This is a place that should not exist and yet does. A solipsistic world where I believe it to be because otherwise would deny my own senses. Yet, here I am, sitting in this plush, high-backed armchair across from a roaring fireplace scrawling into this journal as if to make sure it is all real.

Currently, we are in a world that we have taken to calling Zyphr. This is the home world of the angels that I spoke of. I first officially encountered them when they invaded another world called Terra. The angels are like locusts. They consume the essence of a world and leave it to collapse upon itself. We battled them across the entire world of Terra and in the end, we were victorious. The cost of that victory was immense, however. The destruction and loss of life were the likes that I have never seen, nor heard of. Massive cities, struck down to rubble. Children crying in the streets. The aftermath was disgusting. Yet we were lauded as heroes. The loss could have been worse, I suppose.

I have discovered the reason that the angels consume worlds. They do it to keep their own dying world from sliding into oblivion. This world is one of miraculous beauty that hides a terrible evil. The people here wield a force that can only be described as magic. They do so casually and without concern. They rely on magic so heavily that when Victoria and I completed a painting by hand for our hosts, they acted as if what we had done was miraculous. They live with miracles every day and have grown accustomed to them to the extent that the commonplace is a miracle to them.

I will write more as I get a chance to. For now, know that I plan on assisting this world in getting a merciful death. I hope to help the people migrate elsewhere and then allow this world to actually die. It is like a mortally injured animal bleeding to death but forced to stay alive.

This world desires death. I am committed to helping it.

Nightmares and visions
a sleepless night

We met with the rebellion. The meeting was underwhelming. Sadly, these are people who have known nothing but peace and tranquility that have it broken up by this new conflict. They scrape and hide and plot and scheme but it seems like most of the rebellion is in their own minds. A quiet and inoffensive rebellion. These people know a love and peace that our world should be ashamed for not knowing. They have love and affection for each other, even strangers. All of this is for nothing if we can’t save them. All of them.

I don’t know if I’m making sense.

The unfortunates who cannot use magic are being forced down into the Underchains. A shaded island beneath the island of Paradiso. The Underchains are like the slum of any other city in our world yet here it is almost a city unto itself. These are a people who live in squalor compared to the majesty of Paradiso. We were sent to discover what was in the lowest floor of the gate complex. A building that serves as offices, forward command and the main point of entry between the Underchains and Paradiso. There, we discovered a plot so horrible that I couldn’t believe that beings from Zyphr would be capable of concieving it.

They planned on poisoning the food.

All of the food is distributed from a central point. The city requires immense amounts of food to keep itself running and so there are these enormous drop offs daily. We came to find out that a high ranking angel named Adam had hatched a plot with a very powerful angel named Cain. They planned to put a sort of virus into the food with the hopes of “solving the population problem.” I wanted to return and torch all of the food but, Michael’s cooler head prevailed. There were just too many of them. Instead, we returned to Ebraim and told him the news.

I found out that the real head of the rebellion was an angel herself. It seems that they are not all of one mind when it comes to the bloodshed and their place in it. This angel believes that the angels themselves are to blame for the cataclysm that struck this world. She believes that the only way is for the angels to be “stopped.” She stopped herself from saying killed but, I knew better. I’ve justified myself like that before. The fact is that they seem to have given up and lost whatever fire they may have had to begin with.

We will reinvigorate that fire.

Then, I had a dream. A nightmare of sorts. In it, I saw a freed Serenity (a spirit of endings perhaps? either way, a spirit that embodies the endings of worlds) but, rather than graceful and clean, she was monstrous and full of spite. Worse still, against her stood Michael but, he was like I’ve never seen him before. His eyes were completely filled with a white light and he seemed to revel in destruction? At least, I believe the destruction was from him? I honestly know not. I then found myself in the white room again where I had seen Serenity before. The place where they are keeping her.

There, I tried to speak sense to the high judge of the angels. I hoped that she could hear me. I hoped that we could come to some sort of reasonable conclusion where bloodshed is minimized. These people need to leave this world and get themselves to a new one. An empty one where they can spread out and not have to concern themselves with population numbers. Although, I fear that such a place would merely allow them to experience the kind of strife that our world has experienced since the dawn of history.

Are we really saving these people?

Sis, don't come looking for me.
Don't find me.

My friend is making a deal with the devil and I am killing angels. I made a deal with a glove, it is showing me things… Things that I know to be true. I have learned how they feed children to the well and that they were going to feed Zenisha‘s brother to the well out of spite. They use magic here, so, so, much magic. I’m helping the rebellion, a group that is fighting off the Elohim, a race that looks like angels from the good book, but destroy entire worlds just so their world lives a little while longer.

This glove, it’s called the order’s light, an artifact that was created before the “cataclysm” an event that almost destroyed this world, and is still destroying it. I am going to sleep, maybe i’ll feel better in the morning.

Zenisha's Journal
Potion's and Thoughts

Zenisha Kapoor

Year 153 ATC

Today I discovered that bloomsun flowers mixed with a small amount of mana crystals (which I obtained legally) and a dash of salt, makes a potent silver tongue potion. I say potent but the word seems lacking. Strong? Powerful? Formidable? Either way, I am storing this recipe here and writing this note to remind myself, never to use this potion again. I tested the potion on my poor dear sister Raina, who promptly followed all of my orders and did so with such enthusiasm, it was quite frightening. To make matters worse, she could not follow new orders until she had completed the previous ones. Something I wish I had known before commanding her to harm herself. Needless to say, she will no longer be volunteering for my experiments and I am never using this potion again. A year of doing her chores isn’t nearly enough to make up for the whole ordeal but I am not going to tell her that.

Enslaving Potion

10 Bloomsun Flowers (non-crushed)
1 bag full of small mana crystals (the crystals could likely be replaced with just my own mana)
A dash of salt
= A slave!

Mix all the ingredients at once and do not stir. Let it sit for 2 days. Drink the entire vial.

Year 153 ATC

Things are about to change drastically. Soon my sister will marry Abraaz, yes the same annoying little boy who has been in love with her since…I swear it feels like since he was born. I am quite happy for them. I will soon become some lucky Elohim’s vessel. The highest level of grace any fornatuate could ask for, something I am reminded of everyday by nearly everyone. I should be happy and I guess I am happy. At least, I know I should be happy but I am finding it hard to accept my fate. Which is terrible because the Elohim have done everything for us and the least we can do is provide them our strengths. But every time I think of it, I get this uneasy feeling in my stomach.

I get to help save the world
I get some pretty wings
I will learn and discover new things everyday
I don’t know

I have no idea what happens to me when it takes over
What if it accidently kills me
I never get to see my family again and I don’t know why
I’ll never be able to fall in love
I’ll never be able to have children
I’ll have to fight in wars and kill people enemies
My father will forever blame himself
I don’t want to do it!

This did not go as planned.

Year 153 ATC

Saam caused a fire again and everyone ignored my pleas to allow me to find a way to seal his magic…as usual.

Potion of Minor Healing

A handful of topaz dust
A grated Leek
Breast Milk, 2 Cups
3 Freshly pulled fluxweed
A large handful of crushed Blue beetles

Make sure to stir thoroughly and to add the incantation as you are stirring. Please remember to back away a bit from the cauldron.

Potion of Major Healing
A handful of topaz dust
A grated Leek
Breast Milk, 2 Cups
3 Freshly pulled fluxweed
A large handful of crushed Blue beetles

The recipe is the same as the minor one but the actions are different. Do not stir the cauldron, just add the incantation and remember to back away as much as you can.

Year 153 ATC

Discovered two potions today and meet with the Elohim. They answered all of my questions very vaguely. Reassuring me that no harm would come to me but if that is the case, why could they not just tell me exactly what the ritual entails. Why is this so hard for me to accept? My Gods are asking for my help and here I am questioning everything they do. It is probably best to keep mother from this journal. Anyway, the two potions I discovered:

Swiftness Potion
Cat’s tail
Rabbit’s feet
A shot of Dragon’s fire Liquor
A pinch of Safflower

Mix the ingredients slowly and stir occasionally. Let it boil and then let it cool for about 20 minutes. Take small doses. DO NOT GULP.

Peace Potion
5 Bloomsun Flowers (non-crushed)
1 minute of mana expulsion
A dash of salt

Mix all the ingredients at once and do not stir. Let it sit for 1 day. Make sure you filled the Cauldron to the top with water but only fill the bottles with the bottom half and only fill up 4 bottles. Do not consume, the effect takes with smell.

Year 153 ATC

Today we have some unexpected guests. Father said they were wandering the fields and looked like they could use some help. When I first met them, I noticed right away several things about them and I am unsure what to do. They all seem to be very fortunate but their magical auras are very strange looking. Almost other-worldly. Worst of all, the woman, Victoria, is expulsing mana like a fireplace does with smoke. It’s everywhere and it is very powerful. I was in need of a trip to gather more mana at the well but not anymore. Instead, I’ll just take what I need from her and she doesn’t even seem to notice. The two men with her are not expulsing mana but their auras are still strange. I don’t want to tell anyone but I feel like I am supposed too. I need to learn more about these people.

Year 153 ATC

Michael, Victoria, and Jack are absolutely wonderful. Victoria is quite thoughtful and very funny. She gets along with Saam perfectly, he absolutely adores her! Jack is a bit odd at times but I think it is because he is always strategizing. One thing I did notice about Jack is his loyalty and protection of his friends. It is very admirable. Though I do not believe him to be engaged to Victoria. They all seem more like siblings than anything else but who am I to say differently. Then, there is Michael; he is beautiful in every way. He is tall and very muscular. His hair is like the color of fire, it’s nearly orange. I have always kept my distance from boys because of my fate as a vessel. This is so unlike me but I find myself fantasizing about running away with Michael. Besides his appearance, he is very sweet, and approaches people gently. He shows such enthusiasm about helping others, or just about the littlest of things and it is so infectious. I think I could see a life with him and that is not a good thing. Also, I think my sister has fallen for Michael too but I have never known her to see any man like she sees Abraaz. Maybe I am mistaken.

Year 153 ATC

I am to leave in the morning, after my sister’s wedding. The Elohim came today, told my mother they require me earlier then anticipated. The village had to scramble in order to get the wedding ready by sunrise. No one thought to ask them to wait just a couple more days? Of course not! I wasn’t even scheduled to go until two weeks from now. I am so angry with everything. My family for letting them take me so willingly. I have no choice in the matter. If I say no, I don’t even know what would happen. I don’t think anyone has ever said no. But, how selfish of me to deny my world the protection it deserves. With the Elohim’s help, we can maybe figure out a way to stop the wars and heal the world. I need to stop thinking of myself and what it will do to me. No, I need to think of the world, of my village and what this would mean for them. And yet, the tears will not stop flowing from me.

Fear Potion
2 Bat eyes
A medium handful of void dust
5 drops of tears
1 drop of human blood
A pinch of sugar

Stir vigorously and bottle it up quickly after 10 minutes of stirring. Consuming is the most potent effect but smelling it works too, just not as long.

Year 153 ATC

I am running away. My eyes are open now and I couldn’t be happier. Jack explained to me everything father and I had felt for so long. The elohim are not what they seem to be. They are lying to us and even though I do feel that they have our best interests at heart, it is still unforgivable. These worlds that we attack are not cruel, evil worlds. They are worlds like ours, with people only thinking of what to cook tonight or how to celebrate a marriage. At first I was skeptical of Jack’s words but in the end, I knew them to be true. The elohim are growing harsher by the year. First it was the limits on childbearing and now they are enforcing it to the point of taking the children away. Though, at least they do give them to couples who cannot have children… but why now? Jack also confirmed my suspicions about his, Victoria, and Michael’s origins. They are from another world! I guess I should be wary of them because of that but everything within me is telling me to trust them and so, I will. I am meeting them at the barn now. I was unsure at first but now having written my thoughts for me to see, I need to take this opportunity now. For once, I am going to live for me and not for the Elohim.

Year 153 ATC

We are heading to Paradiso. Hopefully, we can find the rumored rebellion there and help them expose the Elohim. It is odd to be so defiant against my Gods…no, they are no Gods of mine anymore. The Elohim are taking children from their homes and feeding them to the well of souls. I would have not believed it, if I had not heard one of them say it from his own mouth. I am disgusted and appalled just thinking of it. The well that we all use is being fuelled by stolen children now. Their essence flows in us and we use it to water our plants. I will never go near the thing again, unless it is to destroy it. Still, I want to continue believing that the Elohim have just lost their way. Maybe the pressure we placed on them to save us has pushed them to this point. Or maybe they did a good job of brainwashing me. Either way, something needs to be done. By the time the sun is at it’s highest, we should be in the town nearest to the portal to Paradiso. I hope the children made it safely.

Potion of Minor invisibility
A pinch of Goats teeth (crushed)
3 tongues of the chameleon
A handful of Grated shade blooms
1 opal stone (crushed)
3 honey bees (whole)

Add the spell as you stir. Bottle it in small vials. If consumed too much, it will make you sick.

Year 153 ATC

We have arrived to Paradiso. Finally!

One of the seven heroes, Cain, found out that we were at the port town nearest to the portal to paradiso and caused us to have to flee. I was told to stay in Victoria’s extradimensional headquarters as they call it. As far as I can tell, it’s like another world but one that she created. The day Victoria realizes her true power, may be the last time we get to see her. Actually, if Cain ever gets his hands on her, we probably won’t even get to see a fully realized Victoria anyways. No one told me he was after her but I could see it in her eyes. She fears him greatly and they fear what could happen. I briefly thought the same. What would happen if he were to capture her? What would he do? I am convinced he would feed her to the well but what kind of repercussions would that cause to our world? I hope to never find out.

In lighter news, Michael stood behind with me and even volunteered to be my test Subject. Of course, I accidently gave him what I thought would be toad’s breath but instead it caused him to begin turning into a toad. Luckily he seemed unfazed and happily willing to continue in being my test subject. Which is good because I am 100% sure that neither Jack nor Victoria will ever volunteer.

Toad’s Breath
A toad
A cup of sugar
2 very small mana crystals
2 large handfuls of Nutmeg

Boil the toad until fully liquidated, do not just crush the toad. Crushing the toad makes the potion a transformation potion. The user will begin to form into an actual toad. Then add the 2 crystals and the Nutmeg together. Slowly add the sugar. Bottle as much as you want, at any point. Keep your distance from the person who drinks this. Their breath will become unbearable and will stay that way unless you give them the cure. The Potion to cure the effects is below.

Frog’s Breath Cure
A cup of sugar
2 very small mana crystals
2 large handfuls of Nutmeg
A dozen roses (crushed)

Follow the directions for Frog’s Breath but without the toad.

I really should have apologized to Michael.

Year 153 ATC

Several things have happened so far. We found the rebels and it is as I expected. They are a very disorganized group with hardly any recognition besides whispered rumors. But, they have heart and clearly Zyphr’s best interest. Though, I never expected them to be lead by the thought to be dead hero, Erikah Dawngazer and the intense hold they have in the under chains is amazing. We have also learned a little bit of the Elohim’s origins and I am to figure out a way to depower them. A task I will gladly see through. Maybe once they are depowered, they will realize just how foolish they have been behaving. Erikah also told us how much the Elohim consume magic and how reliant they are of it. I wonder if they are the ones to blame for everything that has happened to our world and if so, it would be cruelly funny. But I must focus all of my time and attention to my task. If I can depower the Elohim, I think, it would save many lives.

Year 153 ATC

Rabbie has been assigned to aide me but has done nothing to help me. A constant chatterbox, that one. Asking me useless questions like, how old am I? Where did I grow up? Do you need to take a break? No! I need you to work on whatever it is you think you can do to help! He asked other useless questions but I won’t go on. He also thinks that work time is a great time to court me. So far, the few days that I have come into the lab, he feels the need to tell me how pretty I look and offers me food like I should be impressed. Eventually, I yelled at him and we had created a good system where he stays out of my way. Then Jack came and reminded me how useful Rabbie could be so I talked to him privately and he apologized. I established some ground rules and now things are getting better. I admit progress has greatly improved with Rabbie’s help. He is a very good Artificer.

Later that day we had to rescue Saam from the Elohim. Michael has accepted some sort of deal with a powerful creature. The creature warned him about Saam and we were able to get there in time to save everyone in my village. My family is in disarray. I had to convince them about the ugly truth that is the Elohim. It took mother some time but they are safe now. Unhappy…but safe. Raina is very much upset with me and she has every right. I have done nothing but made her life harder. And now at a time where she should be happiest, she is forced to live in a cavern as a blasphemous. She is handling it surprisingly better than expected.

I wonder what Michael was thinking at the time, accepting order’s light. These days, I keep so busy in the lab, I haven’t been able to talk to him much. I haven’t been able to speak with anyone really. Through, Jack has made it a thing for us to spend supper time together. I’m glad he does. Still, I should try to find time and speak to Michael about how easily accepting power from omnipotent beings is usually a bad idea. Even if it has good intentions. I am beyond worried but first I need to focus on the task in front of me. Trust in your friends as Victoria would say.

No time for potion making.

I exist

I’m not Atlas Vantoft.

I’m not really Jack Valentino either.

The monster that I had long feared lived inside me stands revealed and it’s name is Atlas.

It has been a long time since I’d felt compelled to write my thoughts down and with everything that is going on and what is still to come, I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again. I had better explain everything while I can.

For the past four years, I’d felt like there was a large part of me that was hidden from me. I was unable to remember anything before that night that I awoke in New York. In a way, it made me a capable person. I wasn’t bound by the histories that bind everyone else. I had no family, no past and didn’t even have a name. I was given the name Jack. It was near Valentine’s day so, I was told to call myself Valentino. That became who I was. I put on the name and identity like someone would put on a pair of shoes.

But, it wasn’t real enough.

I found a connection to books about history. Lost empires, fallen kingdoms and battles fought over dust. The weight of their history contrasted the lightness of my own lack. The long and winding history of the Roman empire held triumphs and setbacks that weaved together into a tapestry that ultimately defined Rome. Though I loved the story and learning, I would reflect on my own life and realize that I was a loose and unattached thread flapping in the wind.

Things changed when I met Michael. I was picked up and given purpose by the Secret Service but, it was Michael who fought for my spirit. I’d had employers, targets, associates, go-betweens and more but, I’d never had a friend before. Even as I pushed him away, he reached out and became my friend.

Working missions with him opened up a whole new world. Together, we were better than I ever was alone. He would argue on the ethical validity of some of my choices. Slowly, I found myself wondering how Michael would react to any particular decision of mine. Gradually, I realized that “The greatest good” must be tempered with what “feels right.” I’m not going to apologize for some of my actions but, I didn’t always do what was right. Often, I’d simply felt that even when unpleasant, certain things just “had to be done.”

It was that justification the would have Michael and I clash the most. Then, Victoria joined us and brought with her a sort of idealism and optimistic outlook that neatly combined with Michael. Victoria and Michael continually chose to walk the path of light while I advocated the shadows. Slowly, a strange thing happened. Less and less, I found myself thinking what would Victoria or Michael want me to do while more often, I would think about what was the “right thing” to do.

It was a gradual change on my outlook but, it was dramatic at the same time. Killing was an absolute last resort. Violence was to be applied carefully. I honed the other tools in my toolkit. Strategy, deception and manipulation could supply solutions when violence was off the table. My vision cleared in a way. Things became more complicated.

We saved a world, watched one die and learned so much.

We followed the Elohim of Zyphr back to their world, intent on stopping them from ever attacking another world again. There, instead of monstrous aggressors, we found desperate scavengers attempting to provide and pamper their own people no matter what. The people of Zyphr were human. The problem was that their world was dying yet they never learned how to live within their means. They were never forced to grow up and take responsibility for their own world.

With Zenisha Kapoor, we waged a war of ideas. We battled a culture completely soaked in denial and with minimal losses, we won. Eventually, it became clear to the Elohim that the people that they strove to protect, wanted to have their own chance. They wanted to stand for themselves. We found a new world for them to start over and they called it New Zyphr. This time, the Elohim and the humans could work side by side for the betterment of all. Rather than be treated like children.

There, Zenisha offered me a gift.

She had concocted a potion that she said should open my mind in such a way that my memories should be able to return. Though I was afraid at what I might find in the hidden corners of my mind, I drank the potion because I had to know. I had to learn who I was. I wanted my past to define me like it had in the books that I’d read.

Slowly, I began having memory flashbacks. These would leave me defenseless while my mind drifted back in time and I explored history. I saw a baby. Atlas. I saw the child grow up. I saw his flaws and triumphs. Through it all however, something bothered me. I saw these things. I didn’t experience them.

My memories weren’t in my own eyes. It was as if I were there while Baby Atlas nursed from his mother. I was just a bystander when Saga was born. I spoke with others about how they remembered things. Did they see themselves? Were they observers in their own lives? Again and again, I was baffled. Then I had other, more visceral and darker memories. These, I did experience. I was in a glass container. I was locked in a room. I was in the dark.

It took being in a mental asylum and cut off for me to learn the terrible truth.

No matter how much I wanted to be. No matter how much I wanted to please everyone. I was not Atlas Vantoft. No, I was a shiftless spirit that he encountered in the void between worlds. He took me back with him. Taught me to take his place. He trained me to be him so that he could leave his world and explore the worlds beyond. It wasn’t to be, however. When he activated the machine that would act as a gateway to the void, a much more powerful and malevolent thing was waiting for him.

Out of loyalty to the only other person I really knew, I tried to save him. In doing so, I allowed the malevolent creature to take his body while I must have absorbed his mind. That night that I arrived in Manhattan, it was because of Atlas. I carried him within me as an unknown observer. It was only after he was discovered that I realized that he’d been manipulating events from the start.

He seems to have a measure of control of the creature. He had it turn it’s gaze to earth. When the time was right, the creature was once again waiting. What he didn’t count on was that I would become attached to Michael and Victoria. That would would become friends.

Now, I’ve discovered him. So he has become far more bold. He takes control of my body some times. Forcing me to be in the dark, watching, fighting for the chance to regain ownership of what is mine. He wants to destroy my connections to my friends. He wants to kill what I’ve nourished. He believes that if he can break me and have me truly alone, I would be able to be bent to his will.

He may be right about that.

He plans on merging with the malevolent thing in the void. He plans on using it’s power to consume world after world. In his plan, he would take the minds of the inhabitants and add their knowledge to his own. I can see the burning, empty husks that he would leave behind. Twisted experiments done on innocents just to learn something new. He has no limits. He has nothing to lose. Worst of all, he lives in my mind.

I don’t know if we can beat him. All I know is that where he is alone, I have the support of Michael, Victoria, Zenisha, his father Lord Asmund, His brother Viktor and so many more. His family have accepted me even knowing what I actually am and they are now my family. So, the monster stands revealed but in the light, Atlas just seems like a petty and selfish child. I know that he is dangerous, yet I do pity him. He will never really understand what it’s like to feel love. I don’t think that he is capable.

I am not Atlas Vantoft.

Jack Valentino is a person that I made up.

Even if it only was for your own, twisted reasons, you gave me so much. I thank you for that. All you know is fear and rage. I’ve grown so beyond that. I know what pain and doubt, loss and redemption feel like. Most of all, I know what family and love feel like. To you, they are words and weakness. To me, they are strength. The strength that I will use to destroy you.

I am Jack Vantoft. I created myself and I refuse to let you stop me.

The Symptom and the Disease
an opinion article by Valentine

Darkholme is under attack of sorts.

We live in a world where decadent Noblemen and women hold lavish balls and live opulent lives while most of the population is struggling just to survive. Our Vampiric overlords literally hold the power of life and death at a whim over us. Monsters within and beyond the wall assail us on a daily basis. We all act as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with the nightmarish creatures that constantly batter at our underfunded and crumbling walls and nets.

Then we have “The Raven.”

This… vigilante decides that he, and the Raven is almost certainly a he, has the power to choose who is guilty and who is innocent? The Raven thinks that he can do better than the Vardr that struggle daily to balance all the competing needs of our world? What kind of arrogance gives someone the idea to put on a ridiculous costume and beat on people who are simply trying to live within their means?

Maybe, you think that The Raven is a good thing. Maybe you think that since the Raven operates outside of the traditional systems in place that, this means that the Raven is able to do more than the vardr ever could. If we accept that conceit, then we must ask ourselves: how can we be certain that the Raven is benevolent? How can we be certain that he will remain benevolent? We must never forget the lessons taught to us by our ancestors.

When High King Elric was murdered brutally, we all were complicit in his death. This is fact. This is history. Our Vampiric benefactors aren’t really the only monsters that stalk the city. Maybe, we need to remember to look in the mirror and recognize the monster that lurks there as well? The vampires may have provoked our ancestors into action but, they did what they did willingly. Would we do the same?

I think we would.

So, we look back at The Raven. This person, be he bondi, noble, vampire or even thrall, may even believe that he is doing the right thing. Even if this is so, ultimately, he is one man. One man who is acting as judge and jury over the rest of us. How long before he thinks that he can become our executioner as well? Are we safe from that? Can we be certain? The Raven operates in the dark but, he is a symptom of a greater disease.

Darkholme, you are sick.

You are ill and maybe some of you believe that The Raven or the Blade of Saluwan are the cure. They aren’t the cure, they are more symptoms. Only you can cure yourself from the disease that your caste system imposes on you. Only you can voice your needs, your fears. Only you can come together. I speak not only to the Bondi. I speak to the Vampires. I speak to the Thrall. I even speak to The Raven.

We are sick and we are dying. This nation cannot hold itself together while we are so busy tearing ourselves apart. I don’t ask the Raven to stop doing what he is doing. Such a person wouldn’t listen anyway. I ask that all of us make real efforts to real change. I ask that we be smart and work within the system where we can. I ask that we keep to the shadows when we must. I say that more than anything else, we must work together. Even the Raven can have a place if we work together. Maybe, we could bring about a new and brighter tomorrow.

And just maybe, we could finally hold back the dark.

A midnight encounter
A raven in the dark

The darkness consumed every corner, reaching out with tendrils to fill every crack. The always-overcast sky made it look like there simply were no stars. Not that anyone had really seen a star before. The city was quiet, dead and still as a grave. In this lonely darkness, hurried a tall and far too thin man. He glanced about nervously and startled at every noise. He was a man comfortable in the day. He was the kind of person who kept a lit candle by his bed to keep the darkness at bay.

Uther Lorensen wanted nothing more than to be in bed with his wife.

He wanted a hot meal, maybe a cold mug of some kind of alcohol and most of all, he wanted to be home. As luck would have it though, that wasn’t the case today. No, today he found himself in the Hanged District. A den of vile people and disgusting habits. Criminals, the lot of them. He’d heard stories about how looking someone in the eye was enough to get you stabbed. He heard that the vardr don’t actually come here because it’s too dangerous and we bondi don’t pay for protection. Mostly, he heard that it wasn’t safe.

So it was with great fear and concern that Uther found himself in the Hanged District. How he had arrived here was simple enough, his wife sent him to a new shop across town, he stayed longer than he had intended and then he got lost on the way back. Uther cursed himself quietly as he imagined the scolding that he would get when he finally made it home. If he made it home at all.

As Uther crossed the cobble streets of Billows street and headed toward Tomlin, he started to feel strange. The hairs were standing on the back of his neck and his throat became incredibly dry. He quickly glanced around but, saw no one. Still, he felt it in the pit of his stomach and his mind screamed inside. He was being watched.

He went down Tomlin and quickly ducked into an alleyway and clasped his own hand over his mouth. The street seemed empty and colder. The silence was deafening. That was when he heard the footsteps.

“Did he go this way?” someone whispered.
“I’m not sure… lets double back around. We’ll find him.” someone responded.
“I’m gonna gut that scrawny piece of-”

There was a strange noise, a mixture of surprise and pain. Then, there were the unmistakable noises of violence. A man stumbled into the alleyway, his arm obviously broken, the other brandishing a knife.

“You!” yells the man with the knife as he lunges forward.
Uther yelps as his foot flies out in front of him.
The man with the knife makes a high pitched noise and grabs his crotch, scowling in pain.
Uther lets out a wild swing while screaming like a wounded animal.
The man dodges the swing effortlessly and swings the knife toward Uther.
Uther closes his eyes.

The knife never comes to end him. Instead, the sound of crunching bone and screams. When Uther finally gains the courage to open his eyes, the man with the knife is tied to an overhang, dangling painfully. In the shadows, another thing… probably a man, clad in black and dark grey rags. On his face, a leather beaked mask.

“You’re the raven,” Uther says.
The man in rags nods.
“Thank you,” Uther begins to bow low when a gravelly voice interrupts him.
“Don’t bow. I’m not your master. You defended yourself. Keep doing that.”

With that, the man turned and ran into the darkness.

“I did defend myself,” Uther whispered.
Then, more proud than he had been in a long time, Uther thought about the story that he was able to tell his wife. He smiled as he sped his way home.

A nightmare of doubt
revisiting No Man's Land

I had a nightmare.

It’s the first that I’ve had… maybe ever. In it, Michael and I stood over the broken neighborhood of No Man’s Land. A place boarded up and discarded. It’s people were lost souls given up and swallowed by a darkness that I don’t even dare to name. In this nightmare, I didn’t leave No Man’s Land with the families that we were able to find and save. In the nightmare, we didn’t save anyone.

It was me, standing on the roof of a beaten down sky scraper watching the neighborhood and it’s inhabitants burn. I was able to see their flesh char, bubble and flake off. I heard their screams echoing endlessly in the night. Their bodies writhing in a macabre dance of pure agony. I saw all this and I smiled.

When I awoke, I was cold. Dreadfully cold. My skin felt like a corpse. I stared into the darkness of my room and searched deep within myself, was it me that burned No Man’s Land or was it Atlas manipulating me from the recesses of my own mind? I realized then that this was his truest and ultimate power.


I’d never really felt it before. I read about leaders expressing doubt in their own faculties. Fearful that they may not make the right choices. I’ve seen Michael paralyzed by doubt, wondering if he was making the right decision. I’ve never doubted myself. Never. Now, I’m questioning my actions. Now I’m staring into the darkness wondering if I was a puppet and he was pulling my strings.

I got out of bed and went to the window. The night was cold and I didn’t bother to cover myself up. I looked out at Vantoft estate, my estate and wondered when the next time that Atlas would take over. Would I be able to return? Was I strong enough?

There is too much work to do for me to give in to doubt. I must harden myself. I must accept that I may not always have the answer, this is why I have friends. I must accept that I may not be perfect but, I will do everything I can to make things right. This world is beset on all sides by monsters, I will do everything I can, even die for them.

More nightmares may come. Maybe, I made the wrong decision and missed an innocent in No Man’s Land. I will live with that. I must live with that. What I won’t do, is show weakness and doubt. My friends need me to believe in them and they need to believe in me. I will be strong for them.

Even if I lose more sleep.

A carriage accident and a long awaited encounter
an attempt on Victoria's life

I should remember to write what had occurred the night previous. A man stepped out in front of Lady Lovesel's carriage. The one carrying Victoria, Lady Lovesel and little Octavia. In order to avoid hitting the man, the driver pulled the carriage hard to the left. This caused their carriage to crash into another carriage and almost kill a pair of children on the sidewalk. I, as the Raven, managed to get to the children just in time to get them out of harms way.

I wish that I could say the same for the passengers of the other carriage. Lady Lovesel's carriage fell atop this other carriage and the accident wound up killing two of the occupants. One, older woman, survived and I was able to pull her out.

The man was actually being controlled by the Deep. He was one of the barely detectable Hollow Ones that now must be crawling about the city unopposed. He was ranting that we should "beware." I would later discover what we should beware, indeed. I shadowed the Vardr to the watchtower where the man was being interrogated. Upon arriving though, Damon opened my eyes to another possibility.

This was a warning.

I raced to the Lovesel manor as quickly as I could, somehow arriving before they did. Once there, I found the manor to be eerily quiet. I went to Victoria's room as I heard the Lady Lovesel and Victoria enter the manor. Victoria's room was upstairs. I opened to door to Victoria's room to an ambush. Barely, I avoided a fatal wound.

I sprung into action and retaliated, I knew who my attacker was without needing to see him. Lord Dagur, or shall I call him The Reaper, had come for Victoria. We fought intensely, both of us granting no quarter. It was a bitter and brutal fight. Possibly more intense that any that I have had before. His blades cut my skin and my batons bruised his. The tide turned in my favor when I was able to manuver him into the position for me to shock him with my batons.

Would that I could do that again so easily but, alas the surprise would only work once.

We continued to fight, the battle firmly in my favor. I thought to myself that I might spare him. That maybe, I should tie him up and leave him unconscious for the Vardr to find. The people would push the Vardr to investigate and the evidence against Dagur is pretty insurmountable. His status as a noble may protect him a bit but, he has killed too many nobles to go unpunished. It was not to be, however.

He did something. Something bizarre. He told me the myriad ways that he was going to hurt Victoria and it hurt me physically. His words were literally weapons. I was without defense. I literally tripped backwards over my own feet in clumsy surprise.

Dagur got away.


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