It's weird who you bump into in the middle of a foreign country. Today, I bumped into Bernard, Roland's friend and partner. We had a very tasty curry together and indulged in some good-natured gossip about Roland. Well, debatable on how good natured I was about it!
Apparently, Roland has been speaking a lot about me lately, enough so that Bernard thought I was already in on Roland's little 'secret.' He wasn't happy when he accidentally confirmed my suspicions! According to him, Roland is in the country chasing down a rumor for the Underground's boss, something about a legend of a Junagadh princess that even got his bosses in England in a tizzy.
Bernard wasn't sharing any more details, but I was able to tease out the legend from a storyteller. The story tells of a beautiful princess called Ranakdevi who lived in Wadhwan and who committed sati when her husband was killed. Apparently her angry spirit still demands sacrifice. Be that as it may, I can't just sit around and let Roland do who-knows-what; I should at least try to find him and find out what's going on. Guess that means a trip to Wadhwan...
I made my way to Wadhwan to track down Roland and see what he's up to. Luckily, I didn't have to look far for him; he appeared on the steps of the Temple of Sati Ranakdevi while I was chatting to a local boy. After that, I just had to follow him at a distance.
I came to Roland's little shack where he was hiding, thinking it was going to be a nice simple conversation where I yelled at him for being an idiot and he was all sheepish. Except the reality was far worse. He let me in and showed me that his friend Bernard was bleeding profusely and generally looked like hell. Apparently some...thing attacked them in the temple and Bernard took the brunt of the attack. Roland had tried to take him to a doctor, but everyone in the town was terrified of them thanks to the legend of Ranakdevi's curse, and soon Bernard couldn't be moved. I suggested we try a Brahmin or someone who could purify Bernard, if only to put the local doctors' minds at rest and encourage them to help him. While Roland went to find a Brahmin, I searched the streets for a doctor who would agree to come.
It seemed, though, like every doctor I asked for help was too scared of the curse to come. Things were looking worse and worse, but Roland - being Roland - sent me away, saying it wasn't my fight. I suppose he's just trying to protect me or something, but I'm not about to give up! I should head back to Wadhwan as soon as possible.I know Roland tried to keep me away from the whole Bernard-is-sick-and-dying thing, but I'm not one to give up. I returned to Wadhwan and started asking around again if there were any doctors who'd be willing to brave Ranakdevi's curse to help Bernard.
At long last, after a lot of slammed doors, I was able to find a doctor willing to help, if and only if the patient were properly purged by the Brahmin. Which was actually sounding less and less like superstitious nonsense and more like good sense; when I got back to the shack, it was clear that something supernatural was at work. Bernard's flesh was so hot it literally left a mark, and he was delirious and speaking about a strange woman in his head and a fire consuming his thoughts.
I thought for a minute that everything would be fine when the Brahmin arrived, but no sooner did he give Bernard some water than it began to boil, and he proclaimed that it was too late to do anything. He left without even trying to perform the ritual or save Bernard.. Roland was desperate and begged me to lie to the doctor and say the ritual had been performed successfully.
Maybe it was something in my eye or my face when I spoke to the doctor that gave it away, but he spooked and ran as soon as I went out to see him. I'll have to look around Wadhwan again to see if I can find him or another doctor to help Bernard.Back in Wadhwan, I was looking for a doctor who could help Bernard. So many doctors were scared of this curse that Roland and I were at the point of lying about it and saying it had been cleansed. I found someone and told my story with bated breath.
Luckily the doctor bought my story for long enough to get him inside the shack... unfortunately, one touch of Bernard and he freaked out again. He left some medicinal incense and ran off, but the incense put him to sleep long enough for Roland and I to talk... and by talk, I mean fight..
Suddenly there was a bloodcurdling scream from inside the shack, and we ran in to see Ranakdevi - at least, I think that's what it was - cradling Bernard and cackling wildly. She was literally made of fire! So naturally, we did what anyone would do with fire... throw water on it to make it go out. She disappeared, but it was like she took Bernard's life energy with her. Roland took his scorching hand in his and held on tight, not even caring about the burn, talking to Bernard and telling him he'd be all right. He held Bernard's hand as he died.
After Bernard was... gone, we went to a doctor - one that would actually help, this time - to treat Roland's burns. I still can't believe he did that... it must have been agonizing, like holding on to a heated iron. Would I do the same for Felix or Anna?
Despite everything that's happened, Roland insisted on returning to the temple in order to complete his mission and protect other people from what happened to Bernard. I never know what to feel about him and his stubborn dedication to his job... infuriated or impressed. I hope that he'll be all right... and that if he still needs a friend to look out for him, he'll come to me.