Author Topic: The Choice  (Read 579 times)

Lion El'Jonson

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The Choice
« on: July 28, 2023, 05:40:29 PM »
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The journal is fresh- this is the first page. 
In Barovia today, every Gundarakite is faced with a choice. Whether they live their lives in peace, under the cover of darkness, as farmers and fisherman, or thieves and smugglers- the choice is the same.

Fight and die or live and suffer.

You can live in peace, live by the laws of the land- and over time watch as the laws turn against you more and more. From the beginning, it started with our language- our land.

We can't speak Luktar- at least not in public. Our mothers still teach us, even though it's illegal, but dare to speak it in public and you'll find yourself in the guard's hands.

We can't own land or property. Homes, farmsteads, tanneries, what have you- they can only be rented. An extortion paid to our masters just to try and make a living. Between the taxes and the rent, my father and I just managed to scrape by thanks to his fishing boat. His greatest pride was sending me away from Barovia- how he managed to afford to have me educated, I'm sure I'll never know, he wouldn't say.

For years after my return father encouraged me to stay peaceful- as long as we weren't violent, we had no reason to fear the Burgomaster. With my education, I could seek a better life and maybe change things for us. He wanted new lives for our people, but we had to keep the peace first. But he was wrong, it didn't matter. Nobody ever listened to me. Gundarakites would look at me as an apologist, and Barovians would look at me like they always did- as a dog.

Father died a second-class man in a society that hated him, no words or schooling changed that. He looked to me to make a difference and I failed. When he passed, I gave it up- better to just stick to the boat. It was mine now and it meant more to me than all the Dementlieuse tutors in the world.

The Black Army came- Gundarakites who made their choice. Under the yoke of Barovian oppression, they chose to fight and die. I didn't. I kept to my fishing, kept Mother fed until her last days as well. But the unexpected happened- they came for my boat.

I don't know if the Army used boats, or what. Nobody told me. All I know is suddenly it was illegal to own it and I couldn't afford the extortion to 'rent' it, so it was taken from me. Couldn't afford to keep renting the family home and it was taken as well. I visited- they had torn down the headstones of my father and mother, some Barovian family with their own problems.

 I almost made my choice right there. I was ready to murder, starting with that family and then every guard I could get my hands on. But I didn't. I'm not sure how long it's been since then- more than a year, at least. I've been running letters and cargo for the Barovian warehouse for scraps of fang- enough to keep a room rented and to feed myself.

The rebels kept fighting, of course- and what followed is the 'register'. Every Gundarakite in Vallaki was told to give up their names, their profession, where they were from, their age. It doesn't seem like that big a deal compared to most- and yet it incensed me. They'd taken my livelihood, I lost my home for it, and yet now they wanted me to march up to the Citadel and jot down my name like a good boy.

I told myself I wouldn't do it- today they finally stopped me and asked me, and I told them so. I wasn't nice about it- I was angry. When they dragged me into the Citadels, it only got worse. Years of rage at the injustice of it all came out, but even through that I argued for us. Like the old days, I decried how I only wanted to be treated human- equal to Barovian.

Yet like before, the words seemed to fall on deaf ears. The Corporal said if I wanted to be 'equal', then I could be sawn in half. The Lance Corporal stepped in and spoke to me privately, convinced me that it wasn't worth throwing my life away. He was right- why let the Barovians murder me for doing no wrong? I gave in- I gave my name, my 'profession', all that.

So now I'm faced with the Choice again. Do I stand by while rebels fight for our rights, die for us, and the laws continue to turn against us? The guards seem to have some among them with good intentions- but what difference does it make, if none of them are willing or able to make a change?

What am I meant to do?
« Last Edit: July 28, 2023, 05:46:12 PM by Lion El'Jonson »

Lion El'Jonson

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Re: The Choice
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2023, 05:49:38 PM »
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The next page, seemingly not long written after the first, was only one line. Evidently written in a haste of inspiration.

I have an idea.

Lion El'Jonson

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Re: The Choice
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2023, 07:58:47 AM »
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I think I've finally snapped. In a good way. My abuse at the hands of the Garda last week broke the final straw- I may not be a rebel, but I'll be damned if I keep delivering Barovian letters and fish to make my living. I always thought I was too smart for it anyways and I was right- I'm a genius. I started the 'Gundarakite Relief Fund', a charity service for poor Gundarakites seeking donations from outlanders.

As expected, Outlanders were all too eager to prove just how generous and good-hearted they were and they dumped gold into my pockets faster than I could open them. I confess to feeling a little guilty- this money will not be feeding the mouths of poor and hungry Gundarakites as advertised. Though in fairness, when I said that every coin would go to a Gundarakite in need, I wasn't technically lying. I am in need.

With this sudden flux of fang, I've been purchasing equipment for myself. For what, you might ask, uninvited reader of my journal? For work. My old tutor taught me quite a few skills in regards to the science of Archaeology. Studying ancient peoples and civilizations isn't as simple as dusting off old bones or digging holes in the ground- the world is chalk full of old ruins leftover from their lives. Loaded with ancient treasure, deadly traps, cunning locks, and cursed monsters.

I am going to make a change for our people, one way or the other, but I can't do it as a destitute former fisherman with nothing to his name. I need money, skill, experience, and reputation. Ancient treasures of lost civilizations will give me the coin I need to make it happen. I will not make the Barovian fear me, but respect me. Enough wayward blood has been spilled- it's time for new tactics.

Lion El'Jonson

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Re: The Choice
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2023, 05:41:20 PM »
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I met the General of the Black Army.

I guess they'd noticed me about and wanted to make contact. I don't know if they read my notices and see me as a rebel or what. It seemed like they just wanted to gauge me, get the measure of me. See if I was one of them. I made my position on peace pretty clear- they didn't seem to disapprove. They were hard to read. It certainly put things into perspective for me, though. I could never have imagined someone that important coming and talking to me. Makes me wonder if I'll end up getting called into the Count's castle next.

I'll hope that never comes to pass. Despite my unwillingness to take up arms, the General gave me some coin and bid me good health. At least I can say I haven't made an enemy of the Black Army or their assassins. I wasn't sure that'd be the case- I'd thought that perhaps my message of peace would sit poorly with those of fiery temper and rebellious hearts.

As far as the Garda, they've offered no reaction to my notices. I've not received word of my summons or even had one walk up to me- I had also perhaps thought they might take my message as resistance and seek to punish me for it. Though perhaps they don't want to create a martyr. I'm certainly willing to bleed and die for my message, but my concern is that my death wouldn't inspire more peaceful protestors, but more violent rebels. How much blood would be spilled because of my name?

Time will tell.

Lion El'Jonson

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Re: The Choice
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2023, 06:50:21 PM »
Dried blood has soaked most of the above pages. The words are barely readable.

Lion El'Jonson

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Re: The Choice
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2023, 07:06:37 PM »
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A child.

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard it. A von Zarovich rat dragged a Gundarakite child into the Outskirts and killed them for all to see. All to try and leverage information on the rebels. I've been a fool, a terrible fool- I thought these people could be negotiated with, thought there was a peaceful solution.

PEACE IS DEAD.

I can see now there's no hope for Barovians. Not as long as they serve these monstrous tyrants. The garda, the burgomaster- they're worthless puppets. They bow and scrape at the first sign on a von Zarovich. They don't have the power to make the change I want and the ones that do will never care to.

Which means there can only be blood. I said what I had to for my freedom, but I have no intentions of living up to my word. Spy on the rebels for the guard? The rebels haven't so much as scratched me, but I've been beaten and even killed by the garda just for my words. 'Defiance', they call it, when you speak your mind.

Some of the garda are reasonable, I've said it before. I didn't lie when I told the Corporal I didn't hate them. But it doesn't matter. The men they're slaves to are pure evil, what hope can there be for them? The garda should resign while they can, it isn't just Gundarakite rebels furious with them anymore.

In the meantime, I'm done with my message. I may not be a soldier, ready to go out and battle the garda, but I'm sure as hell done trying to preach peace while they butcher us like cows.

This world is HELL.

Lion El'Jonson

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Re: The Choice
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2023, 05:41:54 PM »
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My hand feels sluggish under the weight of liquor. The Keep of the Dyad is a dreary, unfriendly place, full of odd outlanders and untrustworthy Vistani.

I long for home despite knowing I can't return. I talked to the General, made it clear just how I'd changed my mind. But even still, I'm no soldier. I don't know how to wield a weapon. All I can do for now is improve my skills, keep studying. The plan is to eventually get as much money onto their cause as I can- but trying another 'Gundarakite Relief Fund' would attract too much attention now.

In the meantime, it seems I must keep my distance from the entire conflict. One day I will return to Vallaki in full, to seek retribution for the taken innocent.