I promised you a story about Lao. She’s been living at the Nest for some months now and it goes surprisingly well. She made friends with a little girl, Dandan, and found her family – Dandan had been living on her own since her parents had been killed in the Barrens not far from the Nest. Her grandparents were overjoyed to get her back and only slightly disturbed by the fact that she now has a rat spirit as her special guardian.
I think this chance meeting gave Lao the push she needed onto the road back to the spirit she used to be. There’s still much that can go wrong, she has been a toxic spirit for a very long time. But even though she could easily get her power from suffering and hate, she tries not to. She told me she had been a protector once and she wants to be one again.
I invited her over for dinner because I wanted to talk and see if there was anything I could do. Food is definitely a way to get her attention, she really enjoys this particular perk of having an actual body. She worries about the copy of her true name we have squirrelled away as insurance. And she offered me a pact: the copy will be bound to me, no-one else will be able to use it and no new copies can be made from this particular one. In exchange, I will not age any more.
I did not think that I’d be offered something close to eternal life when I got up that morning. I also would not have thought that Lao would trust me that much. If I die, the copy can be used by anyone again, so I’m not painting a target on my back, too. I decided to accept her offer, for the next seven years. To seal it, we will go on a metaquest. Not strictly necessary, but I think it’s a good way to strengthen the bond we seem to have developed.
She also told me that the Nest has a rat king, a former ally of Gen Wong. We need to get rid of him and I probably won’t be open to negotiations this time. He’s already controlling some people, although to a much lesser extent that Gen did, and of course the rats and the devil rats. Lao can help with that particular problem.
I couldn’t take her word for this, though, not when I need to decide whether to kill someone or not. So she allowed me access to her psychometry and to her memories. I got what I wanted and I also got a very good look at her past. Hundred of years of hate and pains and despair, all delivered right into my brain in the space of a couple of minutes.
And then I did it again because I thought I had gotten a very quick look at Lao’s death or at least at a time when she wasn’t toxic. In a way, it really was her death, although it seems she has always been a spirit. But I got to see the aftermath of the death of the shaman who was her, I don’t know, master or partner, who was kind to her in any case. He died fighting insect spirits and that should tell you just how old Lao really is. After that, she was called upon by another shaman and he was the one who asked her to kill, to avenge the deaths of the villagers she had protected for so long.
I dream about her memories and when things get quiet, I can still feel the pain that is part of her existence now. It will pass, at least for me.
I have selfish reasons to help her, of course. As a toxic spirit, she is a danger to the Nest. But I also have come to like her. I’d call her a friend, even, as strange as that sounds. And if I can do anything to help her, I will. The metaquest will be a trip into her past as well, we will try to recover the aura of the focus her shaman carried and use it to seal our pact. Maybe we can uncover some more memories of her life before she became toxic as well.