Ja’Deir saw the pain on Overkill’s face as he hobbled to a stump-seat. He collapsed onto its sturdy, if uncomfortable, support. CrIsis gathered around the dwarf, recently returned from the depths of despair. Ja’Deir felt surprise when the dwarf appeared in the middle of camp, around midday. He was taken a week prior, and the subsequent days were full of worry and apprehension.
Indaris recieved a letter sent from U’Selekma himself about a month ago, and among other things it gave a vague outline of an agreement struck by man and god. A war summit. Ja’Deir did not understand that. If the two sides could meet on common ground, why couldn’t they come to an agreement? If they had to meet and set up “rules” for the war, and truly expect both sides to follow these rules, why couldn’t they just negociate peace? And further, if they couldn’t negociate peace, how were they to trust that the antagonistic gods would even follow these rules of engagement? It made no sense whatsoever.
But, in this it said that there was an agreement that the side of Taut was allowed to take each of the Champions of Light in turn. CrIsis assumed that there must have been guidelines, like not killing them while the champion was in the custody of Taut, but there was no guarantee. And so it was surprised relief that greeted the broken and bleeding dwarf.
//Aargh. Aye, laddies, I am back from the depths of the abyss. My ol’ pirate mind is havin’ trouble ta dredge the bottom of the lake, an’ I canno’ remember e’rythin.’’ He relayed tales of pain, torture, healings, and more pain. He also vaguely recalled Mary being tortured near him.
As if saying her name was the final piece of a summoning ritual, the Captain’s wife appeared, momentarily standing tall, and then collapsing under her own weight.
“MARY!” Overkill screamed. The adrenaline washed any feeling of pain from his mind as he lunged toward her, unable to stay separated from her any longer. Indaris, Asher, and Ja’Deir heard sickening pops and an ominous grinding from Overkill’s torture-torn form. Indaris checked him over as he cradled Mary’s head in his lap.
“I believe we can fix this, but it would be better for a Psychic surgeon to work on him. Would you please?’’ the priest asked of the psychics.
“Of course. Hold him so that he doesn’t move,‘’ Ja’Deir agreed. The Ashada’s hands gently searched Overkill’s body for problem areas. His cursory diagnosis completed, he injected psionic ruffies into him, and started surgery. Ja’Deir accidentally severed a major artery, and Overkill started to convulse. ‘’ Hold him! I cut him. Let me fix this!’’ He was able to successfully close the artery, and fixed all of the dwarf’s problems.
Ja’Deir looked across the camp at the outsiders, Mack and the Dignitary. It had been a strange month in the jungle already; but even that had not inducted them into CrIsis, and such an intimate moment with Overkill and Mary was still outside their depth.
CrIsis came upon the teleportation circle first used by an elven necromanceress. It had since been repaired, and upon the rock lay Oric Bellode. Tyvernos was plunged into the depths of fury and sorrow. The so-called Agent murdered his greatest friend in the world outside of his fellow avatars of Light.
The Gnome decided to leave the corpse where it lay, and perform a spiritual burial. Jidian Kulder, friend and part-time companion of CrIsis bid them adieu, and left them in the hands of a travelling Monster Hunter, Magnus, though he goes by ‘Mack’. CrIsis rescued two tortured humans from the Necrotic Lair, and one of which happened to be his brother. The other, after they revived him, turned out to be a foreign dignitary. Well, that is what he claimed, but from his demeanor and innate authority it wasn’t hard to surmise. Someone that pompous generally has the money and power to back it.
This did not phase the Minotaur, who has an innate hatred for anyone but one that hails from the ‘’empire of sin.’’ Ja’Deir finds it sadly ironic – the Minotaur’s racism. Everyone in CrIsis accepts him for all that he is, both good and bad, as they accept the others, and as they accept themselves. No one is a Monster alone, and everyone has a Monster inside. Ja’Deir’s instructors referred to this monster as the Carnal self, and referred to the anti-monster as the Spiritual self.
Xerx’ses wars with the innate rage, self-righteous indignations, and blood-lust granted to him by his heritage, and he has conquered them better than any Ja’Deir had ever met. Granted, he hasn’t met more than a few.
But when Ja’Deir sees Xerx’ses, or speaks with him, or plays with him, he doesn’t see the heritage. He doesn’t see the devilish horns, the animal eyes, or inhuman strength. He sees a kind soul, and a well-meaning child of the Gods. He sees a friend, an ally, and a truer companion than he had before CrIsis. Even Bonnie and Clyde, rest their souls, did not fill his heart the way that did Xerx’ses.
This has engendered a psychological feeling of persecution whenever anyone disagrees or argues with him.
The dignitary, acting as his upbringing and status dictated. He commanded, expecting CrIsis to obey. None of them had any intention of obeying this man, but without provocation the minotaur grabbed the frail human in his supernaturally strong arms, and screamed in his face. The poor dignitary nearly fainted at the attack, as would most humans.
‘’Mister Alragin, we are on a quest, and do not have the ability to take you northward. We must meet a friend in Mishala, and get our ship. From there we must travel. We have no need of the monetary reimbursement, and it will not sway us from our destination. From Mishala you can attain conveyance back to the Western Empire.’’ Ja’Deir said to the dignitary.
This was completely drowned out by the Minotaur bellowing with beastial wrath, “WE ROOLE HERE! YOO ARE SLIME AND FILTH! IF YOO PRESOOM TO ROOLE US WE WILL MURDER YOO! IT INSULTS US THAT YOO OFFER GOLD! HOW DARE YOO BE YOURSELF! IF YOO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MmE YOO WILL DIE!” or something like that. Ja’Dier couldn’t understand half of the words, as they were mixed with spittle and had a definite “oo” sound too often.
Xerx’ses placed him back on the ground, and got defensive as some of the members of the group suggest that starting in with the yelling and lifting him up was a bit brash. What makes a sentient being sentient is the ability to reason. Simply stating the facts in an indisputable manner, and not yielding to compromise, is enough for most beings to understand that there is no use for further discussion. There was no need to jump to full-forced yelling and threats.
And that is the problem that any of CrIsis might have with Xerx’ses. Everyone respects his need to be honest. It is part of him and part of his devotion to the Lawgiver. No one would think about putting him down for it. But honesty is not bluntness, nor is it rude. You need not insult someone in order to always be truthful. There is no dishonesty in offering simple intra-being kindness and respect to rulers of nations. The man may be slimy, but you need not say it to his face, while spitting in it, to maintain your honesty.
Antagonistic behavior, followed by “Self-Defense” is dishonest as well. If you see a bear in the woods, and poke its nose with a stick, then kill it when it attacks, you cannot honestly say that, “it wasn’t MY fault that the bear attacked,” nor can you say honestly that, “I wasn’t to blame for its death.”
The only knowledge that humans have of Minotaurs is myths and fables of a time long past, where the unholy enforcers of the rule of the Old Ones were the Humanoid Bovines. It is not their fault that the only information they have is wrong. You cannot punish them for their level of enlightenment, nor should we. It is dishonest to intentionally maintain a form that inspires fear and hatred, and then blame the lives lost in “Self Defense” on their own ignorance, as you cannot blame the mouse for sniffing the cheese in the trap, and leave burden his death on his own head. Is the truth of your form so important that innocent lives mean less? Mothers and Fathers, brothers and sisters, all of which are less important than the truth of your form to the world?
Over the next several weeks, Xerx’ses muttered about CrIsis’ view of him, and how they see him as a monster due to his heritage. All of which is untrue, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel that way. No one feels that way. CrIsis loves him, most of all Ja’Deir.
Mack’s brother bid CrIsis adieu near the beginning of the trek through the Yin Slog jungles. The Monster Hunter led them well, past pitfalls and ambushes that would have harried their escape had he not been there.
CrIsis slept, having heard the harrowing accounts of Overkill’s and Mary’s capture, torture, and eventual release. Each member had a haunted look during the tales, as they each looked forward to that future, unavoidable as death itself.
On the morrow Tyvernos was to be taken.
>>Picture credit: Fine Art America