... But one day my prayers were answered in a way I thought not possible.
I collapsed from exhaustion upon my dear Alara's grave-stone under the light of the full moon, dreaming of our time together. Something stirred within me, and I awoke back into deep despair, weeping most piteously. Only to find a cloaked figure approaching. "Tell me, Sekhlos," he said. "I am here to ease your unhappiness. Now that she has slipped forever beyond your grasp, do you desire release ... or revenge?"
"I love her still," I answered, for in truth I felt as if the words were being ripped from my throat, and it was beyond my control to utter falsehood. "If release means to give up that love, I want nothing of it. Nor will revenge bring her back."
"But at least it will bring justice upon those who took her away from you."
"What do you mean?" I asked. "She took ill. It was no-one's fault."
He smiled, and it was the empty smile of a skull. And the cloaked man spread his hands. Then, suddenly, in his face, I saw the face of the witch who I had paid to treat my beloved, and I saw a vision of how she had left Alara's medicine to boil too long while chatting with her husband. I heard their laughter as they discussed the rumors of the day, and black emotion stabbed my heart. Then in the cloaked man's face I saw Alara's father, riding with a trade caravan. He was thinking about his ill daughter, and how nobody would miss a handful of gold should he slip away and hire an alchemist to provide her care. But he chose the honor of his job over the love of his family. A second burning needle pierced my heart, and I felt as though the despair within it was bleeding through my body, boiling into hatred. Other faces flashed by, faster and faster, my friends and family and neighbors, all of whom -- had they simply cared for her more! -- could have saved her life.
"Liar!" I shouted, standing up. "Demon! Torment me not or you shall regret it!"
The cloaked man laughed. "Sekhlos. They call me the Death Mask, for in my eyes you see only life's end. They also call me Suicide, for that is what it is to attack me. But if you wish revenge, then by all means, strike me down."
Not understanding, and thinking him still a demon sent to torment my grieving spirit, I drew my knife and stabbed him in the chest. He made no motion to defend himself. But as the blade pressed in, there was a moment of disorientation and a sharp pain. I looked down at my outspread arms, at the blood on my cloak, at the knife in my chest, and up into my own face.
"As you wish," Sehklos said to me, "they will pay. They will all pay. Everyone who could have helped her, and everyone who stood by as she died. And more besides. They will all know your pain. They will all follow her into oblivion."
And in that moment I understood. I was the first victim, for in my fear and pride I had failed her as well. Had I taken more care when I chose a witch ... or had I sold our house to hire an alchemist myself ... or had I reacted to her coughing earlier ... there were a hundred things I might have done differently ... had I but known!
And in my last moments I understood the cloaked man, as well. He was no demon, but one of the old gods of our world, Durmirok, and his offer of revenge was sincere. And I felt a regret even greater, for I might have prevented what was to follow if only I had
==PAGE TORN OUT==
A small slip of paper is inserted into the book here. It reads:
I must not bait my trap until my trap is ready. He is too clever for second chances.
The handwriting is oddly familiar.