It took me almost two weeks to get to the States and get out again without going through border control or booking transportation in my name. It’s not easy to stay off the grid and get across the world, but I’ve been doing this a long time.
I went byck to see an old friend who we used to call “Augernon.” As far as I know we’re the last of the ’94 Mountaineers, Augie and me. I’d been dreaming about him lately. Ever since the Book of Briars showed up. In the dream, he was trying to tell me something but I couldn’t hear him. He was too far away.
Augie’s been in a Maryland mental health facility for years. After everything that happened with the ’94s, I disappeared. But he same “thing” that came for me and the other ’94s came for him. Twisted his mind. He knew more of the truth than anyone else, but it’s like someone went in and tore it out of him, leaving half a man behind. One day he was the sweetest guy I ever met, father, husband, friend… The next day he was a ghost.
I finally got to Maryland. It was good to see him. Sit with him. There are times when he knows who I am, but he never remembers our history, who we were… What we did. When he first saw me he said he’d been trying to call me. His attendant tried to tell me that he hadn’t made any phone calls, but I knew what he meant.
I know a lot of you are skeptical, but I believe there’s magic left here, in dark places. Places like dreams. I think that’s why they can’t erase what the few of us remember. Not completely. You’d have to take the shadows too, and that’s where they hide. They or it, or whatever rewrote the world.
The people like us, who’ve been looking for the Lost Collection, we all have shadows we carry with us. Different than the kinds of shadows most people have. We carry the shadows of who we used to be. Who we were supposed to be. We’re haunted by them, trying to make sense of them.
Augie had been calling to me in his dreams. Looking for me through the dark places. He had something to tell me. But he couldn’t remember now in the daylight. So I sat with him, watching ducks circle on a pond for hours, until he fell asleep. I was happy just to spend time with someone who knows who I really am. It’s been years.
But then he started talking to me.
In his sleep. He was lucid. The old Augie. We talked about the old days, the books. How much he misses his wife and boys. He told me he’d called out to me and knew somehow I’d answer him. He said he had something important to tell me.
I have to say, what he told me, crushed me. Took me a week to come to grips with it. He told me I had to stop what I was doing. Things had changed. A new age has started, an age I started by putting the Guide online. Massive shifts were about to happen. But it was all out of my control now.
I believe he meant that we (Endri, Eaves, Bash, Itsuki and myself) aren’t supposed to solve the fragments. We’re not meant to unlock the book. We’re supposed to help you, the recruits, solve them. I think there’s a reason each of the current Mountaineers were sorted separately into one of the six guilds (Augie was always our honorary Ebenguard) and found each other. It’s because we’re supposed to be guild masters to the recruits. We’re supposed to resurrect the old guilds and give you the tools and resources to finally change everything. Everything.
We’re supposed to provide you help and guidance to do whatever the Book of Briars requires of you. The Book wants to be unlocked, but our time has passed. It’s your time. I know some of my fellow Mountaineers aren’t going to like it, but it feels right. We’ve been together for years and never seen anything like the past few months. All progress so far has been made by the recruits, not us. This wants to be bigger than the six of us. And we have to let it go. I believe that’s the key to unraveling all of this and finally bringing back the true world. The world the way it’s supposed to be. It has to be. It can’t just be this, the lie.
This is on your shoulders now. You have to climb the mountain, into the shadows, and bring the truth back with you.