Thursday, August 15, 2019

Never Break A Deal With A Warlock

The rest of the trip to Phandolin was short, but it still left Abdael with too much time for thinking.

I killed him, he thought. He betrayed us, and I killed him.

They'd made a deal with the would-be goblin leader, Yeemik: they would kill the bugbear Klarg, putting Yeemik in charge of the tribe, and in return Yeemik would release Geira, the gnome woman who had originally hired them, and who had stepped in to take the place of her sister Gondul as hostage. But by the time they returned with the news that Klarg was dead, Geira was gone.

It was the smug expression that did it, Abdael decided. Yeemik clearly hadn't expected them to survive a battle with Klarg; he'd been surprised when they returned successfully, but not smart enough to be worried by the fact that they'd returned entirely unscathed. He'd broken their deal, then taunted them with the gnome's absence...

...And Abdael, who had never before thought of himself as a cold-blooded murderer, had found himself in the grip of a fury so profound that he'd loosed a bolt of shadow without so much as thought, staggering the goblin and nearly killing him. And when they'd learned where Geira had been taken and the goblin Gnash had agreed to guide them there, he'd been the one to finish Yeemik off. Coldly. Remorselessly. Utterly without hesitation.

He was... not the sort of person he'd once believed himself to be.

Except... this was not his first time at killing. His first job for the guild had been clearing the rats out of a pillow-maker's shop. And when the goblins had tried to ambush them, he'd cut one down -- a sentient being, thinking and feeling -- without a second thought. So what made this act different?

Well, the rats weren't sentient, so he could dismiss their deaths easily enough. And the goblins had been set to ambush them, so that death seemed like self-defense. And Klarg had been responsible for the ambush of Gondul's wagon and probably a lot of other mayhem, so killing him and his guards honestly had the feel of a public service. And it had been a battle, after all, even if they'd begun with a surprise attack. Yeemik's death, by contrast, had the feel of an execution.

Maybe that was what it was: not necessarily the killing itself, but that Abdael alone had decided that it needed to be done, and then done it. Yeemik, he was sure, would certainly have killed them if given the chance; he had certainly tried to send them to their deaths. The would-be goblin leader had deserved his fate. It was just...

That sudden moment of fury had frightened Abdael, that was definitely part of it. He'd never known that he was capable of wanting to kill someone so badly. And he had acted without consulting anyone else to see if that desire was just, or if it was just what he wanted in the moment. So the weight of the decision was all on him, and that was frightening too. None of the others seemed to think he'd done anything amiss, but... that was a big decision to make on his own, and to some extent he didn't feel that he should have made it on his own. Then, lastly... Yeemik had still been talking to them; the rest of the party had been threatening and cajoling when Abdael blasted him. It felt like they'd still been in a negotiation -- not a battle -- and that, too, was part of what troubled him.

I think it was the right decision. Abdael was still troubled, but beginning to feel a little better. There were lives at stake, after all: Geira's, Gondul's, and theirs. Possibly even Gnash's, if his tribesfolk thought him a traitor. It hadn't been a battle, but Yeemik had very clearly showed himself to be an enemy -- and a betrayer. Abdael still didn't like to think of himself as the sort of person who would just... decide to kill someone, as he'd done... but in this case it did seem to be justified.

He'd have to be careful, though. He'd become an adventurer to learn more about his shadow and the mysterious patron that had placed it inside him, and in the process he -- and his shadow -- were clearly becoming more powerful. The stronger he grew, the more tempting it would be to make exactly these sorts of judgements on his own, and the easier it would be to become a monster, a villain. He'd have to make sure he stayed with the sort of people who would keep him in check, who would make him want to reach for mercy instead of murder, who would prefer compassion to contempt.

People like the ones around him now, it seemed.

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