April 2nd, age 12
The milkweed fields around the town where I was born; the ones I used to play in as a child. I dream of the sickly sour smell of the milk that oozed out of the pods when I broke them open, and of that disgusting stickiness that would coat my fingers afterwards. And in these dreams, I work my way through the entire field, pulling each pod off of each stalk and tearing them open to free the soft floaters within them. I set the seeds free, plant by plant, until I'm surrounded by nothing but empty stalks and white, fluffy seeds floating on the breeze. My hands are sticky, covered in the floaters I worked so hard to free, but aside from those few, I've done my job well.
I run among them, crashing through the plants and laughing with the breeze until my mother calls me home for dinner.
But I suppose everybody dreams of home. My mother certainly did; it was hard to tell sometimes, but I think her heart ached for it. She smiled and laughed with me, paid me all sorts of attention, but every once in a while when the wind was right and the sounds of singing echoed from the hills, I would catch her gazing at the distant mountains with an unbearable amount of sadness in her eyes.
In those moments, I often felt my chest fill with phantom pain. She was my mother, I never wanted to see that sadness in her. I would have done anything to banish it from her eyes forever, but being only a small child, I held absolutely no power to do so.
This is why when she told me to pack my most prized possessions; whatever I could carry, I didn't question it. I packed my things quickly, and she seemed to have been ready for a while, because she only stuffed some food into her sack before she took my hand and we left for those distant mountains.
April 2nd, age 14
They echo with the voices of all of the mountain villages, singing the same ancient song. The spring festival has come once again, marking six years since my mother and I completed our journey to her homeland and began our new lives. These past years have seen my mother happy and in good health, which I'm very thankful for, although, admittedly, I dislike it here.
The mountains surround Winterholt completely. Winters are harsh and every year there are deaths. The warmer months are beautiful, but there are no fields of milkweed and no roads leading off over the hills. Travelers rarely come to town, and I know it's awful of me to wish for my own happiness over my mother's, but I am not happy.
I've tried to be good about it; I've never once whined, although I do admit I've had my nose buried in you far more often than I used to, Diary. I enjoy reading through the entries I made in my younger years; I enjoy reminiscing about my home.
But, today is not the day for sadness.
The reason I began writing today is because I felt the need to tell you of a strange thing that happened to me earlier.
I was helping to spread the seeds among the small patches of growing land we have here when a man approached me. He was older than I, much taller and with a strange presence about him that I can't quite describe. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. But, he showed no sign of hostility, and I assumed he was just a villager that I hadn't seen about, so I decided to be polite.
He crouched in front of me and introduced himself as the warlock who lives on the crags above the village. He told me that he saw potential in me and that he'd like to invite me to be his apprentice. That he'd already spoken to my mother about it and if I were to accept his invitation, to meet him at the town gate just after tonight's communal dinner. I gave a noncommital answer (I wasn't sure what to make of the whole situation) and he left me to my work.
I thought about his offer throughout much of the day. I verified his story with my mother, who had been assigned the task of decorating the center square with as many winter flowers as she could find, and smiled and told me that all she wanted was for me to feel as though I belong; that she felt incredibly selfish for holding her happiness over my own, and she gave me her blessing and permission to make whatever decision I saw fit.
I spent most of the afternoon considering his proposal, and even now, I'm not sure that I've considered it long enough to be comfortable with my decision.
It breaks my heart a little to leave my mother's side, but I think I'm going to do it. I'm going to pack my things before dinner and leave them at the town gates so that he knows I'm coming and doesn't leave without me. I'm nervous, though-- I hope this is the right decision. I'm assuming apprenticing under a warlock will be difficult work, and I don't know if I'll be allowed to change my mind once I get there.
In any case, it's almost time for supper, so I'd best get all of my things together. Wish me luck!
April 29th, age 14
It was excellent, although it took several hours for me to master even this simple technique. Shadow manipulation is but a basic skill-- simply the ability to change the shape and size of one's shadow. It's evidently an important daily exercise used to focus in on the matter at hand, sort of like how a runner stretches before he runs. Master (that is what the warlock has wished me to call him) says that it's a skill I will be practicing and improving on before every lesson in the future.
I realize that it seems strange that my first lesson would occur almost a month into my apprenticeship, and I'm sorry I've left you in the dark so long, Diary. You see, it's very important for an apprentice to learn about the art he is to learn before actually learning it. Master has spent the last couple of weeks explaining his art to me as well as allowing me to become settled in his fortress and study up.
Warlocks generate their magical energy through a partnership with dark spirits. It's at the making of this partnership that the title of warlock is actually attained. Without it, a warlock would be no different from a mage or sorcerer. This partnership makes the art somewhat dangerous, though Master explained to me that I would be placed in no such situation until I was quite ready. Until then, he's allowed me to create a similar partnership with him, so that I may draw on his arcane power to fuel my own.
I know, I know. This seems rather... safe for something like a warlock, doesn't it? I thought that he would be quite a bit... I don't know, darker, unhinged, maybe a little more evil than he actually is. I was a bit frightened the evening I met him at the town gates, but it turns out that I had absolutely nothing to be frightened about. All in all, he's a very nice man; very supportive of my studies and willing to help me with absolutely anything. Although it's only been a couple of weeks, I find that I'm becoming rather attached to him-- which is odd, as it usually takes me quite a bit longer to warm up to people.
I have to run and prepare dinner, but first I'd like to say that I'm greatly looking forward to learning from him, and I'm going to do my very best to make him proud of me.
October 20th, age 16
I was warned when I first began my tutelage under him that warlocks are quite prone to madness. A warlock draws his power from otherworldly spirits, often primordial evil beings. There's a ritual which is performed at the end of every apprenticeship where the warlock-in-training creates a pact with these creatures, essentially granting them a small piece of his or her soul in exchange for the ability to "borrow" their power to complete his spells.
I've been told that, as a warlock becomes more immersed in his or her art, hearing the whispers of these spirits becomes rather commonplace. Supposedly, the constant buzz of these whispers eventually fractures the mind, and that is when a warlock begins slipping.
I think this is what's happening to my master.
He's been going on secret errands a lot. He always leaves the stronghold after my curfew and returns before I begin my morning chores. When I venture to ask him about it, he firmly tells me that it's 'nothing to concern myself with' and to 'focus on my studies,' when normally, he would explain any aspect of a warlock's life that I had questions about.
On top of this, his personality has changed. He's always been a very good teacher; positive in his feedback and encouragement. Despite all of those stories you hear about warlocks being cruel, he's been nothing but warm and caring towards me. Over the years, I've grown to love him deeply, as any good apprentice should love his master.
Lately, though, he's been rather cold to me. Never cruel, but his patience has grown thin and his smile has all but disappeared. He more or less ignores me when he's not giving me my lessons, and even then he's clearly preoccupied with other things. The bags under his eyes have only gotten more noticeable, and his hands are unnaturally cold.
I don't know what to do. Although he's never been cruel to me before, I fear that if he continues this downward spiral, that day may come. And from there, it's only a matter of time before his madness descends upon Winterholt.
I worry for my safety. I worry for my mother's safety. I worry for his safety.
I'm rather limited in my power; there is nothing I could possibly to to stop him if he were to snap. A warlock's mad rage is capable of decimating entire armies-- what could I possibly do in the face of such power?
But, as his apprentice, and as someone who cares very much for him, it's my duty to do whatever I can. I will figure out what's going on and what I can do to help.
I have to.
December 12th, age 16
Tonight, I broke curfew shortly after my master left for his errands. I was snooping around the stronghold, looking for any clues as to why my master's behavior has been so strange lately. Of course, this soon led me to his private quarters, which have always been expressly forbidden to me. It took all of my courage to push open that door-- I was terrified of what I might find beyond it. Interestingly enough, though, it was nothing more than a simple room, not entirely unlike my own.
Except for one thing.
Laid across the arms of what appeared to be a very old chair was a swirling mass of darkness. It watched me through all of its many eyes as I approached, assuming, at first, that it was perhaps some sort of familiar. As my feet closed the distance between us, I began to sense its sheer arcane power-- I could feel it throbbing in my chest and throat, like some dreadful second heartbeat.
The thing didn't make any move as I reached out to touch it, other than its many eyes focusing on my hands. When I finally made contact with it, the sudden chill that ran through me nearly caused me to pull back. It felt like a cold, damp mist swirling about my fingertips, and as I reached further into it, all of my other senses seemed to fall away. The pounding in my chest and throat increased in intensity, and just as I decided I must withdraw, the thing moved of its own accord, swirling up my arm and about my shoulders, which it fell around like some cold, misty cloak, clinging tightly about my neck.
Startled by this turn of events, I quickly reached up to loose it from my throat, searching frantically for a nonexistant clasp. Panicking, I tried to pull it off over my head, but to no avail-- it only seemed to swirl tighter around me in an effort to hang on. I continued to attempt to squirm out of it in what, to any voyeur, must have been a quite amusing manner, until eventually, exhausted and feeling rather light-headed from its choking me, I relented, as did the cloak-creature.
Only then did a new panic wash over me-- what would my master say when he found me donning one of his posessions? Particularly one that he'd been keeping within his own private chambers? And what if this evil thing was somehow related to his recent strangeness?
And after much worrying, I've come to the only solution I possibly could:
I have to leave. I have to gather whatever I can-- whatever may help me find a way to break this thing's hold on me-- and depart the stronghold. The town. I have to go far, far away, for I fear my master's rage at what I've done will only cause to push him over the line, and I fear that my life could be forfeit.
Not until I either free myself from this cloak or find a way to destroy it will I be able to return. And even then, I'm not certain. This may be the last time I ever see the things familiar to me, and I will miss them dearly.
I will try to keep up with my journal entries on my usual daily basis. However, just in case something happens to me, I would like to leave a final request for anyone who may find this journal:
Please return it to Miria in Winterholt, and while you're there, please stop by the stronghold on the crags overlooking the town and tell my master of my fate. If it hasn't been stolen from me, remove the amber from about my wrist and give it to him; it was given to me as a gift early in my apprenticeship, and I'd like him to have something to remember me by, if he so chooses.