Wiki source for ChronP52

Show raw source

[[ChronPavis Pavis]] [[ChronP51 back]]

==== A second chance? ====
//Godsday, Movement week, Fire season//

It's an odd sensation, looking out from within a Silence, especially when half-hidden as they are at present. They can see and hear most of what's going on in the main temple, but are unlikely to be seen themselves, and any comments they make can't be heard. It's almost like being in the audience of a play, where the actors carefully pretend the audience aren't there, only this is no pretence. You could, of course, break though and make yourselves known, but there seems no reason to do so at present.

Outside, most people have left for the fresh air (and possibly lunch) and a few remain preparing for the ceremony later, directed by Uljar Breaknose, Standardbearer of the Legion. At the far end, there's a silhouette with his back to you, facing the great statues and the altar: Illig. He's still holding the great Sword, but point down now, resting on the ground, almost as if he's leaning on it for support.

Dori heads towards Illig, skirting the main activity, but Uljar intercepts her. "The Warlord is at prayer, Raven, and gave orders that he should not be disturbed."

She nods. "Given what we just learned, I think those orders should be broken." She hesitates a little, then: "Uljar, you said earlier that if there was genuine remorse, anything could be forgiven. Would you still hold to that?"

He pauses, assessing her. "Yes, I would. If, indeed, there were real remorse, and not just more lies. That would solve a number of problems." They both look towards where Illig stands. "Go, then - but know, Raven, that if he is hurt by your actions, I for one will never forgive that, or you."

"I'd never forgive myself - but more to the point, it seems we aren't the only ones to feel that way."

"Oh? Given the events of the past, that seems unlikely."

"Done unwittingly, and without understanding. Now, with understanding..... things have changed."

"As they would. I will, however, ask you to wait a little while. Let me dismiss these others to the sunlight first. I see no reason for them to see or hear.. whatever may occur.... unless the Warlord wishes it."

"Nor do I, and my thanks."

Hearing Dori speak Egil turns to Graylor, "Would you mind telling the Raven that my services are still available to her? I have a Sphere of Silence here that she could invite the Warlord into if she wishes a private audience, or I could create on around them where they are. I know it's not a great idea to issue summons to him."

"Of course." Graylor leaves the silence and makes his way to Dori, arriving just before she breaks Illig's reverie. "We heard your conversation with Uljar. Egil offers his services to keep your conversation with the Warlord quiet. Either where he is or where the current zone of silence exists."

"That's.... an easier solution than this, but I'm not sure. He'd have to know Egil was there and could hear what was being said, wouldn't he? I'd rather that wasn't too obvious to him, this will be hard enough as it is."

She thinks about it for a moment. "There's those stick markers to set up, as well. No, best to leave things as they are, I think. Uljar is already clearing the temple. Thank Egil for me, please, but I'm going to have to refuse the offer."

The last few people leave the temple as Graylor returns, leaving only Uljar standing in the shadows at the side, watching. Dori nods to him, and walks forwards, quietly and rather reluctantly.


Illig straightens, turns towards her. "Dorinda? Is it sunset already?"

"No, sir, not even close. We thought you should know - we have an alternative. You don't have to kill her."

Their voices are quiet, but in the silence of the empty temple, carry easily to inside Egil's Silence.

"We already discussed this." Ilig sounds tired. "It's that or resign. The Legion deserves better than a Warlord so weak he has to order others to do his killing for him."

"That wasn't what I meant... but if it did come to that, you resign, we'd only vote you straight back in again, and in any case there'd be no ordering involved, only choosing from all the volunteers willing to do the job for you."

"They hate her that much?"

"No - well," as Truth overrides what she'd have preferred to say, "not many. No, they'd volunteer because they don't want you to be hurt."

"Because they think I am too weak for the job." That bitter self-condemnation has all too obviously been there for days.

"No! Sir, if that's weakness, then so is failing to beat the Bat single-handed. I think...." she hesitates for a moment, then goes on. "I think you underestimate the loyalty of your Legion. Back in there," she waves a hand in the vague direction of her office, "once everyone understood what the problem was, there wasn't any question, it didn't need discussing. Our overriding priority was that you should not be hurt by this, or have your honour damaged in any way. Graylor even came up with a plan that lets her survive this even if she's guilty - one of us probably ends up dead, but that didn't matter, not to any of us, not if it prevents you being hurt."

Listening Egil relaxes into Silence of the Mind, he knows Illig imagining himself to be a failure would provoke anger in him if he let it and then he would unleash that anger in words against Kallyr, which could ruin everything they had just created. Instead he turns to Graylor and says "I think you'll find it was my suggestion, not yours." somewhat petulantly.

Had he looked at Kallyr, he would have realised that she was listening to Illig's words with the same horrified disbelief as everyone else.

Dorinda pauses again, the passionate rush of words coming to a halt, then starting again more slowly. "Sir, I know //exactly// what it feels like, and how much strength it takes, to have to kill your protegee and pupil. You stopped me killing myself afterwards, remember? There is no way, absolutely no way, that I am going to allow that to happen to you."

"Dorinda..." He reaches out to her for a moment, as if wanting to comfort her, then draws his hand back, back into the hard, emotionless control. "Gratifying though that may be, it is also entirely irrelevant. The blind, unquestioning loyalty of any number of people, no matter how worthy or well-intentioned, does not justfiy any of my acts, it only imposes a responsibility to live up to their beliefs."

Back in the office, Kallyr stirs slightly from the intent stillness with which she had been listening, "Tell me about it," she murmurs quietly. "Bloody idiots - but you can't let them down."

Dorinda has paused, thinking. "Yes....." she says slowly, "but only if that loyalty really is blind and unquestioning. There's no Makla Mann followers here, we're Herewardi. We most certainly do question our leaders, and judge them, all the time. We use Humakt's Truewind to be sure of finding the smallest flaw. We have the harshest, most critical standards on the lozenge - and our judgement is, and has always been, that you are our chosen leader, and have our absolute support."

"Before this. Once they look again, now? Do not tell me that their judgement will not change."

"It did change, yes." Dori says quietly. "We judged you again, in this new light, and our judgement is now that you are our chosen leader, and have our absolute support - and our help, and our protection. We find no fault, except in our own previous failure to understand that these might be needed."

Graylor raises an eyebrow at Egil's statement, but knowing the stresses around decides not to comment. "But, she is right about us not realising that Illig needs support and not just worship. But he is a bit too formidable to ask to play a game or come drinking. Besides it sounds like he could drink the legion under the table, one after the other!"

Kallyr looks up at him in slight surprise. "You're afraid of him?" A glance around the room makes it clear that others share Graylor's opinion and she sighs. "It figures... those very loyal idiots again. That sounds like a job for his senior officers, like say, those two out there," she nods towards Dori and Uljar. "Friends, if you can find any - they don't need to be his level, just to realise he's human. And once he's got a few, don't even //think// about taking them away."

"Ah, now I can see how they would be important. I guess sometimes it is hard not to get caught up in your own fame." Graylor answers with sudden understanding. "We will see to it that he is properly supported from now on. Incidentally, I apologise for my threat against your friends. Truly I would not wish you to have been deprived of their support."

"You're forgiven." The easy smile is much more reminiscent of the relaxed, confident woman who had initially entered the camp, now. "It's all too easy to do more damage than you intend when you don't understand the implications, isn't it?"

"Those words have are a powerful truth. It is also true that you can cast blame where none blame lies. I did so in your direction and Humakt kept me alive over the next year so that I might find the truth. Of course as soon as I came to Humakt then I died! Maybe, dying at the time would have been too easy an option."

"Too easy? Humakt does that as well, does he?"

"Too damn right he does." Kristen's fingers have tightened slightly on her axe. "They say my goddess is cruel, but that..." The rest of the comment is suppressed, possibly due to the inadvisability of calling Humakt names in his own temple and surrounded by his devotees.

"Sounds like all gods and goddesses do this then, push us all to our limits." Graylor responds with a slight smile at Kristen's restraint. "Or rather to what they see as out limits, since most of us wouldn't push ourselves hard enough. Though many say the the gods created us to have the strength to cope with our wyrd."

"Excuse my intervention" says Abul softly "maybe the idea could be seen as iconoclastic, but you southerners always see the gods descending on the mortals, inspiring them, inflating them like bladders... but couldn't we consider this question on the other way? Mortals trying to reach the gods, overstretching their souls up to their limit? After after the Great Compromise, all Free Will was given to the mortals, but they always aspired to the Divine Solace, no?"

"We could, but then that's not the way it is done here. We like our gods up close and personal. Life would be very lonely if they were distant and never reachable. I'm not sure about divine solace I am looking forward to a good fight on the planes of the dead with all the heroes from the tales." Graylor looks positively astonished at the idea of spending eternity contemplating his perfection.

Abul ponders Graylor's answer closely for a while and asks: "Then if the gods are so near of you, so human I would say, where is their perfection and what's your responsibility towards your own sins and failures?"

"I think the philosophical discussion can wait. There are peoples lives in the balance and we need to hear what Illig and Dori are saying," Graylor replies.

From what can be heard, it seems that a significant portion of the conversation has already been missed.
"...if you are all certain that this time it is genuine?"

"We are," Dori sounds it, as well. "It took a lot of explaining things that had been misunderstood, but she's not stupid or irresponsible, just ignorant."

"That was the sticking point, I think, for everyone?"

"Yes - the question of payment might have seemed important, but it was never relevant. But everyone, even the most biased, agreed that without remorse, there could be no possibility of her apology being accepted, much less the death sentence cancelled."

"You see those as different?" That short question is still as detached as if it were a hypothetical point of law under discussion, but the next is anything but. "Then why waste time wondering if her remorse is real or faked - what does it matter, if she has to die anyway? Isn't this hard enough?"

"She is right, there are two questions." Graylor murmurs.

"It matters." Dori is still very gentle, ignoring the anger and impatience that is not truly aimed at her. "It matters whether she goes accepting or protesting - it mattered enormously to Cavos. But I didn't say she had to die - I don't think she does - only that those are two different questions. You were praying to Humakt - what was his judgement?"

"It matters a great deal to Dori at the very least. For a Humakti she has never enjoyed killing." Graylor agrees.

There is a short pause, as is fitting before a Divine Judgment is announced - but what follows is a desolate near-whisper. "I don't know. I can't see."

"You can't?" Dori's shock is more obvious than she probably intended.

Graylor, having seen a glimpse of Illig's mind is less shocked. Though his composure obviously isn't as good as he thought as he inadvertently vocalises his thought. "I'm amazed that he can function at all, the state he is in."

The silence among the listeners has built again, and though Kallyr is barely sub-vocalising, it's audible to all. The confidence she had regained is gone, she looks close to tears again. "My fault, my fault, I did this to him - Oh, Illig..."

Elendala looks about to say something that would probably have been emphatic agreement, and a glare from Kristen stops her.

Dori has regained control fast. "So what did you see?"

"Two paths, and I know neither can be Humakt's will. Either I let her off, because.... because..." Even now, he can't say it, and Dori intervenes. "All right. We know. And the other?"

"Or... the Legion was too badly hurt by this, and for too long. We have to strike at something, deserving or not, to recover, to release the anger and hate, and pain, and... no. That can't be Humakt's way, and nor can the other. He cut off his emotions to stop this, to be able to rule out of justice. I should..."

"No, you shouldn't." The fact that Dori feels able to flatly contradict her Warleader says much about how their relationship has changed in the last few days. "That's what Graylor was saying earlier, remember? Humakt didn't cut off all his emotions - he tried, but he found that was a bad idea. He left compassion intact, as a guide and a motivation. Are you sure that isn't what you're seeing, on that first path? Humakt's will, that happens to coincide with your own?"

"I don't know." The anger is gone, Illig simply sounds exhausted and hopeless. "I don't even know how to find out."

"Nor do I." She looks back at the "office". "But Graylor will."

Graylor is stunned by what he hears. He can't believe that Dori singled him out to help Illig. But, then that little voice in his head, that won't let him get away without complete honesty, speaks. "Of course you are the one, who else can find the distinction between the truth which is real and the truth that is only wished to be so."

Still he hesitates, he is not sure of the etiquette of spying. Does he go, or should he wait for Dori to call him. Yenda is in no doubt.

"Why haven't you gone already? Dori knows you are listening and she will expect you to be there instantly. The Warleader is in no fit state to notice anything."

He goes. Bows to Illig and Dori from respect. Neither really notice the act.

"You wanted my help." It is a statement not a question. "You want me to separate the truth from the wished for truth. I don't know if you will feel this or not, my apologies if you do."

Graylor prepares to direct his magics at Illig. This time he is more than usually interested in the results. As a consequence he has to try not to pre-judge the outcome, so he enters his meditative trance to calm his mind and discipline his thinking before releasing the Truewind at Illig.

His Truewind blows true - but he realises as it does so how feeble it is compared to what it faces, and Dori, watching on her own wind, does so too. "I can't follow the details of what you're doing, but that needs more power. Here, you steer and let me help push. Combination of Wind and Truth, right?"

Merging magics with Dori is easy, and cutting through the first layer of what's barely self-delusion at all equally so. Violent revenge for wrongs does not come naturally to Humakt, nor to Illig, and that can be blown aside.

The next, though, the demand for justice for the Legion no matter what the cost, is harder, and it takes all Graylor and Dori's strength together to push this away, and show it not to be Humakt's will.

The next option to be checked for Truth is simply mercy where there is remorse, and here, while Graylor can see there are other levels beneath, even his strength and Dori's combined is not enough to push aside Illig's overwhelming preference for this to be the answer. Or rather, it isn't at first. The power he feels coming from Dori suddenly doubles, wavers, then stablises, and he realises that she's managed to bring Illig's own Truewind into the link, with his desire to see the truth, or to have it confirmed, making him at least try to push his own needs aside.

And there, under that last layer, is a rock-solid barrier that even the combined power of all three can't touch. Justice - but justice tempered with compassion and mercy. No specifics, but the solid strength and the "flavour" of that judgement is unmistakable. This is a temple to Humakt, and the temple magic backs it up.

The link drops, Graylor lets his wind die down, and Dori steps back from where she has been half-supporting Illig. He's pale, but calmer. "Yes. That would appear to be the truth, and the answer." The smile is only just there, but far better than the earlier despair. "For your information, Graylor, yes, the patient undergoing surgery does feel the knife, but the operation was a success."

"Thank you, I will work on the technique. I am sure that with practice the operation will be a lot easier and less uncomfortable." Graylor acknowledges graciously. Whilst inside he is crowing that the whole thing actually came off. Though what power Illig has! He is used to the kick that combining casting with another gives, but this was something else altogether. Like being kicked by a dinosaur.

Egil could see the magics swirling around but not its real aim. So he concentrates on his meditation and keeping the sphere of silence working. He doesn't look at Kallyr but rather focuses on Illig.

He can still hear her voice, though she seems to be talking to herself or to those outside who can't hear her. "Great - so you've got the truth and the answer, but //what is it//?"

Yenda reassures Kallyr. "I'm sure they wont delay telling you their decision. Just a few more minutes."

Meanwhile, back in the main temple. Graylor clears his throat. "Now we have a decision, shall I just bring Kallyr back, or do you want the Legion assembled again?"

Illig hesitates, and Dori answers for him. "Not the full Legion, but we're going to need witnesses. If this does result in a change of decision, some will have problems accepting it without having seen the evidence for remorse. The senior officers should be here, at least."

"You think public humiliation is really necessary? I know some will enjoy it, but I see no reason to humour them."

"Yes, sir, I do. Enjoyment or otherwise is irrelevant, they need to see the truth for themselves." Dori is back into the flat, emotionless tone she had used before.

Kallyr, listening in, doesn't quite wince. "Lovely - and this new Dori probably will enjoy it."

"Do you really think so?" Yenda makes no attempt to conceal the contempt in her voice. "I would have thought you would have known her better than that."

Egil nods his agreement with Yenda before he looks round at Kallyr, "You have no clue about the people you want to be friends with do you? She has dealt with lots of pain over various things in the past and to help cope with further emotional pain she has developed some kind of magic which kills her emotions for a short time. She's not enjoying this but neither is she hating it. It just is. Haven't you been watching what's going on while your life hangs on a thread?"

"I've been watching, and listening, yes - listening to the Dori I thought I knew saying it's only Illig's orders stopping her from killing me outright, or spending three weeks - how did you put it? chopping bits off? Because she can't forgive what I've done to Illig, and there's no reason why she should."

Outside, Uljar nods. "She's right. I'll get them."

Dori goes on. "There is one other thing to consider beforehand, sir - a little more hairsplitting on my part, I'm afraid. Regardless of the sentence, there's the possibility of forgiveness."

Illig almost relaxes into a smile. "Dorinda... you still care that much about what happens to her?"

Kallyr sits up a little straighter, listening.

"No, sir." The remote detachment is still there, though wavering a little.

"No. Of course not, not any more." She slumps back again.

Outside, Dori continues. "I care that much about what happens to //you//. Something Benlan taught me a while back: forgiveness isn't about her, it's about you. It isn't saying that what she did was fine, it's about letting go of it, accepting that it happened, passing on judgement to a higher authority, and not letting it define the rest of your life. If you can.... it's hard, I know."

Egil stifles what is almost a laugh "Great Hu! I think our Raven may need to renounce the Legion and take to wearing gray. That was sage talk if ever I heard it, not sure that it has much place among soldiers. Still, what do I know? I'm only the mule not the caravan master."

"It will be given due consideration." Illig's detachment is what Dori's would like to be when it grows up. "That is all?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then go and fetch the prisoner."

Dori nods to Graylor, and they head back to the office together. As they do, her fingers flicker in Swordspeech - "Do not inform enemy of plan."

Graylor's fingers reply. "Understood."

As they enter, Kallyr looks up eagerly. "So what's the verdict?"

Dori regards her dispassionately. "When Orlanth came to Humakt's hall to make amends, did he know in advance whether he would get out again alive?"

"Ah. No."

Dori nods. "And therefore, neither should you. As real as possible, remember, and that includes real fear."

Graylor looks at Kallyr with both his natural vision and that granted by Hereward. The difference between the two is hardly noticeable, Kallyr is in danger of falling out of the quest and into the mundane. Perhaps he could prod things back on course a little. "My Lord Orlanth, art thou ready to be escorted to my Lord Humakt? He is somewhat wroth with thee, and thou hast been a little overwrought. One hopes that thou hast metal enough to face the coming storm."

She glances at him sharply. "I'll cope. Storms are not a problem, but good point." She stands, running a finger around the torc at her throat as she does so, concentrating, focusing.... and that wind starts blowing around her again. The red hair and gem become less noticable, the various runes more so, the face starts to change - and stops. "About there, I think. Better not mention names from now on, it'll only confuse things."

Dori is apparently also judging with the same vision. "Nice. I'd wondered if we'd need a little more ceremony - a partial Arming, perhaps, with Barbeester, your trusty axe, and so on, but perhaps not. We'd only need to do a Disarming as well, after all. Just try to remember that the point of this is remorse, will you? It's no good repeating the same mistake."

(probably more here?)

As the final preparations are being made Graylor takes Dori to one side. "Can you help the warleader, I'm not sure if he can do this without your support and possibly the magic you are using?"

"Good idea. He may be able to manage facing her again, but it'll hurt him. Bring her in when the witnesses are in place, will you?"

Outside, the "witnesses" are not yet present, but Uljar is back in place with Illig, and discussing Seledd "... and she wants the hostages down here as well, something about fair representation of both sides, though I think we all know what that's about."

Dori nods as she joins them. "She's probably expecting a blood-splattered mess on display."

Uljar looks slightly alarmed. "You didn't...?"

"No, of course not, though we are taking the point about needless public humiliation seriously. Even so... " She's back to hesitating slightly before suggesting anything to Illig. "Sir, this isn't going to be easy, and they say it's the second time into the fire that's the hardest. Are you... I mean... would you like some help? There's that trick I've been using for staying detached..."

"The one I believe we had judged too dangerous for casual use?"

"This isn't casual, and it's far easier using it on someone else rather than myself."

"Interesting that you feel able to make the comparison with something which you have not been using, because it is too dangerous." That doesn't carry quite the sting of a normal rebuke from Illig, but Dori winces all the same, and doesn't try to answer.

"So how dangerous is this well-tested trick?"

"Dangerous in the absolute sense, sir? Or as compared with, say, accidentally hitting someone with the Unbreakable Sword?" It's perhaps a little too obvious from whom Dori learned how to combine respectful courtesy with a stingingly accurate rebuke.

Illig does not, of course, wince in return, but merely nods. "Point taken, and precautions are wise. Do it."

They can't feel Dori's magic from here, but they can see her concentration. Uljar, it seems, can see more. "To repeat what you said to Graylor earlier: I can't follow the details of what you're doing, but that needs more power." He pauses for a moment. "Yes, I can. Interesting... and still needs more power."

"It's scapel work, not sword work," Dori says abstractedly, "but more power means more stability, so yes please."

"Hmm." Uljar is concentrating, now, too. "I'd think of it as shield work, myself. Scalpel to make the separation, shield to keep it in place."

"Whatever analogy is used, it is effective." Illig is back to his normal detached stability. "Something to teach others, please, once the current crisis is over."

"That sounds like something to look forward to!" Graylor comments dryly to his companions. "Days on end separating each others emotions. What joy, only we wont be able to feel it!"

<Other responses?>

Hearing the footsteps of the gathering witnesses Graylor ensures the door of Dori's office hides their presence but isn't closed so that the occupants can still hear anything said outside. Seeing that he is the ranking legionary in the room he calls the guard detail to form up around the prisoner. Graylor stands beside Kallyr and takes the opportunity to mutter a few quiet words to her.

"Remember, remorseful and apologetic, not confrontational. I am sure that some in the room will want to bait you for their own sadistic pleasure."

"And with the hostages right there ready to be used. Yes, I know. Let's hope Insterid thinks this is just acting."

Graylor looks at Kallyr sharply. "Is that likely to be a problem? Do you think she might overstep the bounds of being a hostage?"

"If she remembers she's a hostage, she won't do anything to put me in danger. If she doesn't - you heard what she said on the way in about 'over my dead body', and she worships Vinga as the Avenger."

"I'll see what I can do to protect her."

"Guard duty, smartly as you can, remember we are on show here. Egil if you please, release the silence. March."

Egil snatches up the rods and stows them in their pouch at his belt before he falls in to the squad of guards. He the stands in with the other witnesses.

In perfect synchrony the group march out of the chamber and smartly turn to face the entrance to the temple and continue into the temple. The guards peel to either side leaving Kallyr and Graylor to continue to Illig.

"Halt. Returning the prisoner for final adjudication, Sir." Graylor salutes Illig and steps out of the way, neatly ending up at Insterid's side. Once again leaving Kallyr and Illig alone in the centre of the temple.

Kallyr drops to her knees in front of Illig - and yes, "drops" is not a figure of speech. The contrast with her original entrance into the temple perhaps isn't as obvious to those who have been interrogating her, but it is to the others. The casual, confident saunter and alert interest in her surroundings are gone: she's looking at the ground ahead of her, not even at the surrounding guards. She raises her head as she comes in sight of Illig, and checks: Kristen puts out an arm to steady her if needed, and Elendala, behind, pushes her to get her moving again. Perhaps most telling, none of the guard have bothered to draw their swords, or ready other weapons. What had gone into that private room had been a deadly threat, to be kept at sword point at all times: what came out is clearly not regarded as dangerous at all, and certainly doesn't look it.

An impressed Abul observes the scene. "The power of words is absolute" he thinks looking at a changed Kallyr.

There's a sharp intake of breath from Insterid, but her instinctive step forward is checked. Silence, though, is too much to expect. "What the..."

Egil steps towards her, his sword half drawn. His eyes are narrow, but noticeably he does not wear his visage of fear. "You will be silent in this place, if you cannot you will be silenced!" his voice is a hiss. Graylor draws one of his swords, the sound of the iron scraping in the scabbard is loud and menacing in the silence after Egil's warning.

As he waits Egil brings into his mind The Silence of the Grave. If he uses it most of the room will be silenced, but the woman's fear of the implied threat may be enough to cow her into quiet anyway. His thoughts wander over the strangeness of deception while still telling the truth, he may need a discussion with Yodi or Dori after this night is through.

Seledd nods approvingly at both their actions, then looks across at where Dori stands behind Illig. "My congratulations, Raven, she seems to be displaying a much more appropriate attitude. What did you do to her to result in this remarkable change?"

There's a slight pause before Dori answers, after an exchange of glances with Uljar and a nod from him. "We did nothing to her. I encouraged her to do things to herself - it's far more effective." She's putting slightly more emphasis on the initial pronoun of each sentence than might normally be the case, and her eyes are on Insterid, not Seledd. Insterid nods slightly: she stays silent, but her horror-struck expression says all it needs to. Clearly Kallyr's Shield shares Dori's opinion about the most effective way of hurting her mistress, and has her own Avenger-inspired ideas about what should happen to anyone who uses that method.

Graylor whispers in Insterid's ear. "Don't get any ideas, now or later. What was done was needful and nothing more."

The conversation dies down, and everyone's attention returns to the two at the centre of the hall.

To those who know there is something to look for, the dual level of this encounter is even more obvious than before. With the support of the two shadowy figures behind him, who are fading from attention and into the shadows of the dark hall as they watch, Illig is once more as much like Humakt as any human can be, his existence on both planes almost identical. There is only one obvious difference between this encounter and the last: now, his sword remains sheathed. Less obviously, but matching that overt symbol, while there is enormous tension here, there is no hostility.

With no threat, there is no defiance in response. Kallyr isn't trying to push the boundaries, isn't trying to prove how unafraid she is, because there's nothing there to push against.

"Well?" The same single word as before, now not a challenge but a simple invitation to speak. A step forward along that path of intention, towards the crisis point where the two options split.

Kallyr looks up at him, and the rest of the hall, and the observers, fade into background. Graylor holds his breath waiting to see what response Kallyr makes.

"I'm sorry," she says huskily. No playing to the audience, now - there is no audience, only these two. "I should never have done it, never misused your Legion, never tricked you into doing something against your honour. I didn't understand, didn't know how bad it was, what it would do. I'd thought the ends justified the means, but nothing justifies that. Especially, betraying your trust was absolutely unforgivable. At least when you break a relationship, you do it cleanly, but that wasn't clean at all, it was messy and horrible and cruel and should never, never have happened. I have no idea what could possibly make amends for what I did - certainly not that trivial little token I imagined might be good enough. Whatever you want, I'll do it, but I don't know what it could be.

"You said betraying you deserved death, and you're right, of course - if it had been anyone else doing what I did to you, I'd be trying to get revenge on them myself. Only... death. I've realised what that means, talking to your servants here. Only a little of what it means, but more than I knew before. It means peace. An ending. No more responsibilities, no more work, no more pain, no having to somehow make amends, whatever that takes, no having to live with the knowledge of what I've done to you. Do you honestly think I've earnt a reward, an escape, like that? I don't. In the future, maybe, if I try hard enough to make at least partial amends, but not yet.

She spreads her hands, surrendering. "I'm sorry. There aren't any useful words, beyond that."

The feeling of Death around Illig has intensified as she speaks - it might well be Humakt himself she's addressing. The tension, too, has mounted, as that crisis point of decision approaches. Graylor allows himself to breath again. Kallyr had done what she could and made the best possible defense of the situation, in that she made no defense at all.

Illig's voice, is almost unrecognisable: cold, hard, inhuman. But his Sword remains sheathed: this is Truth, not Death, and possibly the more dangerous option or the two. "Your apology is accepted. Do you ask for mercy?"

The impassioned plea over, her voice is absolutely steady in response. "No. I have not earnt mercy. I ask for justice."

"Justice shall be granted. I rule that the proffered amends are not sufficient, and the mercy of death has not been earnt. You are sentenced to live, until amends have been made."

"I accept that sentence."

The otherworldly tension that had been building changes, as something clicks into the right place.

Graylor and Yenda exchange relieved glances. He tries to do so with Dori too but she is fully occupied with supporting Illig.

She goes on, "I accept that kinship between us cannot return. I went too far for that. Friendship, even, may be too much to ask. But could we at least have alliance against our common foe?"

He studies her in silence for a moment. "Yes - provided that you remember who rules in time of war."

She bows her head in submission. "You do."

"Then I can grant you one other thing for which you have not asked and probably do not deserve." For a moment he looks sideways to where Dori stands, then back down. "I forgive you."

The tension stops. The duality, on that other plane, stops, as one path, the one that led into the terrors of the random and the unknown and unknowable, vanishes. What's more, the tension of even existing on both planes at once, the terror of being in Humakt's Halls in the Underworld, vanishes as if it had never been. In a chilly underground stone chamber, a woman with red hair kneels in front of a dark-haired man in armour, who looks at her and his surroundings as if seeing them for the first time.

Illig, as mentioned earlier, has never been stupid, but even so, it takes a few seconds as he visibly catches up with the painful steps of deduction that his intelligence service had taken the last few hours to reach. He looks back down at the woman in front of him.

"Oh, you silly child," he says gently, and the voice is his own again, and completely human. "If all you wanted was my help on a heroquest, did it never occur to you to simply ask?"

Yenda is so relieved that she only just manages to suppress the urge to cheer. It feels like an astonishing victory, even though Kallyr is still under sentence of death, at some future time when she has earned the privilege. Graylor looks round the room to judge the reactions of the few witnesses allowed for the final judgement.

Egil lets the tension flow out of his body, his relief is visible. Personally he would have seen Kallyr dead but he was under orders from Dori to protect her life and had spent the last half an hour working out how he was going to challenge Illig. Now that threat has been lifted and some Silence of the Mind helps to banish it.

Behind Illig, Uljar and Dori are both concentrating solely on the magic they're using.

Insterid and Offir have both remained silent and tense throughout. Illig's words "You are sentenced to live" produced a sigh of relief, but no lessening of tension. That does not stop until the encounter comes back to the mundane.

Yodi has remained detached and amused, throughout. The phrase "silly child" prompts a snort that would normally indicate agreement.

Seledd has shown more reaction than anyone else, perhaps not surprisingly. At first, her satisfaction at Kallyr's "more appropriate attitude" remains dominant, her admission that death is the most appropriate judgment is met with a sharp nod, but Illig's sentence of life produces a moment of stunned incredulity. Only a moment, though - only until the words "...who rules in time of war". That prompts a quick intake of breath, and a gasp of delight as Kallyr submits. She barely notices the rest of the conversation, being lost in her own almost sub-vocalised commentary. "Brilliant, utterly brilliant. 'in time of war, Humakt rules' - of course! Light above, what a Warlord! Got her, got her."

Elendala glances toward her with an expression of sudden enlightenment. She seems about to speak but then stops, restraining herself to a grin of triumphant delight.

Oddus is watching Dori more than reacting to anything else. He looks concerned, though not unduely so.

Kristen, too, is watching Dori protectively, but also keeping an eye on Offir and Insterid, ready to stop any behaviour that might be interpreted as something for which Kallyr should be "punished".

Of all the people in the room, only one is not showing at least some sign of relief that this is over: and Illig still has eyes for no-one else. "Kallyr? Why didn't you ask? Have I ever refused you any such request?"

"No," she says, rather less steadily than when she was still in danger. She's still kneeling, and looking down at the floor now, not at him. "No, you never have..... but that's why it wouldn't have worked. You know that - you taught me that. If you want serious results, you need serious opposition - as tough as it possibly can be, on every level. Your Raven team worked that much out - if you'd known this was only for a part in a quest, not for real, you'd have just agreed to it. Persuading you to accept amends would have been easy, far too easy. It had to look real, it had to //be// real, it had to really hurt, I had to push it as far as I could and still hope to get away with it... and I overdid it, didn't I? I never meant to hurt you this much, not even close, yes, it was meant to be as much as you could cope with, but no more, not like this, Illig, I'm //sorry//."

She looks up at him, now, and there are tears streaming down her face. "How badly did I misjudge it? I did, I know, but you let me live, so... was it.. I mean..."

He's still grave, unemotional. "You came very close." He looks behind for a moment. "I had help. If not.... " The sentence hangs, unfinished. "But the other thing I taught you was that it has to work both ways. Have you pushed yourself too far, and too hard, again? Or did you have help, if we can call it that?"

"It was help, yes - and yes, I know what you're thinking - and you." She turns to look at Insterid for a moment. "Forget it. They did exactly what was needed, and judged it a lot better than I did. They explained a few things, then indirectly suggested I think about what I'd have done, and said, if anyone else had done anything like this to you. So I did. The rest was entirely self-inflicted, and fully deserved."

"And?" That gentleness is still there: anything else is restrained. "Did the result go too far, or not?" For a moment, the concern breaks through. "Kallyr, are you going to be all right?"

"I'll have to be." She's looking at the floor again. "Somehow. Failure is not an option, surrender is not an option, escape is not an option, and there isn't anyone else, so... somehow. Don't know how."

Illig is about to speak, hesitates, and behind him, Dori and Uljar exchange glances and nod. The Death magic they were using drops - it had never been overpowering to the wider audience, but its absence now is unmistakable. The hesitation, and the impassivity, goes: one step forward, and Illig lifts her to her feet. "Oh, my little girl," he says tenderly, as his arms go around her. "I can protect you from most things, but not from yourself." She clings to him, as the last of her control goes, and whatever else he may be saying is lost in her hair.

Abul stays observant, silent and motionless, but if anyone had interest in the young man, he would notice an even more stiff posture, a small hint of reserved pride and joy for a educated Carmanian hazar.

Egil rolls his eyes but holds his tongue. Illig has always been the hard keen edge of a blade, to see him as a cute and cuddly tiger cub is somewhat disconcerting, but a tiger still knows how to bite.

Graylor, satisfied that nothing untoward was happening, breaths a mental sigh of relief. He gives Kallyr and Illig several minutes to reaffirm their bond. Before anyone becomes embarrassed by the show of emotion he clears his throat quietly. "Excuse me warleader. I hope it is not impertinent, but [[ChronP53 what happens next?]]"

Valid XHTML :: Valid CSS: :: Powered by WikkaWiki