After what felt like a lifetime, Lumstigethers has been banished back to the realm from whence he came. Though peace has been restored, the nightmare still lingers. I know he will return some day, and we may not be able to defeat him a second time. Not only this, but the things I saw in the nightmare, the things I learned, they continue to haunt me.
When I was younger, I was so very naive. When I became a hero, the experiences of my childhood raged inside of me. My sadness turned to anger, and I sought to right all of the wrongs in the world. In the name of justice and good, I sought to purge everything bad from this world. I did not believe in forgiveness or redemption, and I wanted the villains of the world to only know suffering for the rest of their days.
The path of the divine hero had been forced on me since my earliest days. Nobody protected our village, the gods ignored us, and the people of the village pressured me to become a divine hero, telling me it was my destiny as a Grayleaf, and I was bitter that I was expected to become our guardian, that I didn't get to have a childhood, because none of the gods could be bothered. And it angered me even more to see that some who had been blessed with eternal life chose not to protect, but used their gift to bring misery instead. I thought they were all worthless, that immortality had rendered them mentally inferior, that I was the only good divine being, that I was better and more human than all of them, and the prejudice in my heart grew and grew.
One day, I discovered a book written by my great-grandfather, Reno Grayleaf. It seemed rather mundane at first, but I had sensed a seal hidden on it. I managed to break the seal and was able to decipher the true contents of the tome. He had created a terrible school of magic known as genocide magic. Monsters frequently attacked the village, and Reno was decried by the village as a weakling and a coward, and would have his work interrupted by both monsters and the other villagers. My great-grandfather came to obsessively loathe monsters, and harnessed his hatred to create a spell, "Reno Genocide", designed to take the rage and energy of a person and turn it into a devastating beam that painfully tears apart and completely eradicates monsters.
After practicing his spell, I found it quite difficult to cast, as I did not share his extreme prejudice toward monsters. However, I understood the spell well enough to retool it into one of my own design, "Grayleaf Genocide", an even more horrible spell designed to target other divine beings. It was made to inflict unbearable harm. On people. People like me, my own kind, divine. And I hated them all more than monsters.
It hurts to look back on the person I once was. But it hurts even more to know the person I could have become. Thanks to Lumstigethers, I have intimate knowledge of the dark path that I avoided. And I only narrowly avoided it. I think of the villains I defeated, how cruel and unforgiving I was to them, but they were nowhere near as horrible as the villain I could have become.
In the village I was raised in, I was one in a long line of people of the Grayleaf bloodline. After so many generations, I was the one for whom the village's legends spoke of, the one destined to become the hero of prophecy. When I came of age, I was to make a wish upon a wish star and become that hero. I betrayed the village and used my wish to become the hero that I wanted to be, and not the hero that the villagers expected me to become. They all turned on me, tried to kill me, and forced me to leave the place I once called home behind.
But I have now learned the truth, the truth that the family of the village elder had kept secret all that time. The hero of prophecy was never supposed to be a hero. A great evil lurked in my bloodline, a bloodline that has ended with me and my sister as the final descendants. The Grayleaf bloodline held not only great potential, but also a history of deep-seated prejudice. I was able to break away from my destiny. I successfully avoided becoming the so-called hero of prophecy, a monstrous destroyer who would have brought genocide to all living things, and I thought I had become a paragon of good.
Ironically, it was my fellow divine, including Skunk, who had once been my most hated enemy, who guided me away from a path of prejudice, to understand the importance of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. I once wanted Skunk to live a life of unending misery as punishment for her misdeeds. When I saw her living comfortably in the sanctuary instead of being physically and psychologically broken and treated with cruelty, it infuriated me, and I took out my anger on her. She was defenseless and remorseful, she wanted to turn away from the life she had led and wanted to be my friend, and I attacked her. Dog saw what I had done and punished me. I myself became a prisoner, my magic stripped away, unable to leave the sanctuary and the room I had been placed in, and I became even angrier at Skunk and the gods as a whole.
I was only kept there for a short time, but it gave me time to reflect on things. Even in such a luxurious setting, it's hard to cope with your freedom being taken away. Being rendered helpless and at the mercy of others taught me a harsh lesson in humility. When Dog came to my room, I was angry, depressed, and anxious all at once. I got up and started trying to shove and hit her without thinking, my attacks doing little more than annoying her.
She grabbed me by the shoulders and I froze with fear. I looked at her face and saw her anger. She looked at me and saw the tears running down my face, she felt me shaking, and she heard me begging for mercy. Her expression calmed, and instead of punishing me, she sat down with me and we talked. She helped me calm down, gave me a hug, and I found myself regretting what I did, both in the moment and for my previous actions in the sanctuary, and I apologized. She smiled and forgave me, treated me like a friend, and took my hand as we left my room and went on a walk around the sanctuary.
I felt safe and welcome, I forgot that I was a prisoner, and my thoughts of anger subsided, replaced with a desire to be kind and friendly. I now understood forgiveness and mercy. It would be quite some time until I could learn to forgive Skunk, but I was able to give her a sincere apology, and I no longer begrudged her and the other prisoners for enjoying treatment that was rehabilitative instead of punitive.
It was a long road, but I have grown a lot since those days. The old me would have never believed that Skunk and I would be good friends one day. She certainly wouldn't have believed that I could have easily been far more evil and dangerous than her. And I could have never foreseen the things I learned about her in the nightmare, that in a past life she had a bleak childhood just as I did, or that she would care about me and so many others so much that it would give her the strength to defeat a fiend like Lumstigethers.
I've learned to keep an open mind. There are some in the sanctuary who have failed to reform for as long as I have existed. Perhaps one day they will, or maybe they won't. Even if they are fated to forever be unable to coexist with the outside world, I still want them to be able to live comfortable and productive lives within the sanctuary, and find as much meaning and happiness as they can.
Lumstigethers made us all suffer greatly, but he himself was tormented by his desire to have what we all take for granted. He could have stayed here with us, if only he chose to live here in peace. I don't know if he has learned his lesson or if his anger continues to grow, but I would be no better than him if I wished for him to suffer. Perhaps I'm still a fool even after all this time, but I believe in forgiveness and mercy. I want him to feel how I felt at the sanctuary, so that maybe he too, like myself and so many others, can find redemption.