Chapter 40

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Half an hour later and the journals are in spread out across the blankets before me. There's only five so obviously some are missing but it's a good place to start. 

Hale leaves them with the warning that Gareth and Elias will probably visit soon, having heard all about what happened. Well, as much as the general public knows. Apparently the story is that the necromancer crashed the ball, intent on wreaking havoc and I got everyone out then faced him alone, heroically defeating him but not without being grievously injured in the process. I understand the need to keep the truth secret but could do without the over-embellishing of my part. 

Five guards have already come to see me, thanking me profusely and wanting to hear what happened from my own lips. I started pretending to be asleep after the second. 

The council has manged to keep the fact that the necromancer was looking for a specific girl quiet so far and I'm thankful for it. Willow's abilities have always put her at risk but now that she brought me back from death, there's no telling how people would react. Bringing me back nearly killed her and people would try to use her to save more. It might make me a cold-hearted monster but I'm not about to let that happen, not with the risk so high. 

 After studying the journals for a minute, I discover that I've gotten lucky and on top of having the newest journal belonging to Queen Evelyn, I also possess the oldest. Selene was the first of Melora's Blessed, something I recall Mortimer telling me. She was never queen, as her right to rule was undiscovered at the time, but she still used her magic to help the people. 

The other three journals belong to queens Lorelai, Kathlyn, and Ophelia. I know that Ophelia was the queen before Evelyn but have no idea who the other two are or when they ruled. I push  those two aside, saving them for last. 

I pick up Selene's journal, feeling the cracked leather of the cover and smelling the must that floats off of it. The paper inside is fragile, the ink nearly faded. Just looking at it, I know it holds some of the answers that I need.

It looks like I'll be starting at the beginning.

________________

I finally put the journal down hours later, my eyes aching and mind whirling. What had I just read?

At first, Selene's journal had been as expected. She wrote of struggling to hide her gift, Melora coming to her in her dreams and speaking to her about her duty and powers. Of traveling south and forming the first temple of Melora with devout followers. 

She used her powers to heal and to help the crops grow and feed the people. The temple became a place of refuge for the sick and the hungry, those in need of healing, physically and mentally. 

Selene had been happy and at peace with her work. She'd found great pleasure in helping people and making a difference, going from fearing her powers to embracing them. 

But then, things changed.

"A man came to the temple today. He's starved and weary but has fire in his eyes, the eyes of a man who has seen many horrors. He says that Melora sent him here for a task, that he has been chosen by the goddess. Though my instincts tell me he is dangerous, I vowed to turn away none who ask for help. I could feel him watching me all day as I worked, his gaze heavy against my skin. I will ask Akilah to keep an eye on him. My soul shivers when I look at him."

After this, her journal entries stop for several days. Then she starts talking about something that happened, something unforgivable that she's done, how she can feel the taint of it in her heart. 

Her use of the word taint makes my skin crawl, reminds me of the night we first encountered the necromancer and he said he could taste the foul taint beneath Willow's magic. 

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