Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sigrid's Journal 7 - Sworn Loyalty

~~~~~


Secondmonth 21


I am a lot calmer tonight than I was last night. I had a vivid, lucid... vision? It involved Lord Morek, but I know it wasn't a memory. I certainly would have remembered this particular occurrence. I will write the vision down exactly as I recall it.

***

The crumpled, dead body of Lord Morek lay at the foot of the stairs. A teenage squire and I crouched down next to his body.


“He's dead, Squire Kendall,” I said it, not quite believing it, “You pushed him, he fell, and now he's dead.”


“It... It was an accident, Knight-Mistress... Please... I didn't mean to.”


“I know you didn't mean to, but you still killed him. His death was unjust. I am going to have to report you to a Lord of Lady of the Order.”


“Please. I... I just... I never meant... I killed a Lord. They'll hang me for this. I didn't mean to... Please listen to me,” the boy looked up at me, his eyes welling with tears. Killing a Lord would result in his execution, and he knew it.


“Your fate is not in my hands, Squire. You killed Lord Morek. Justice doesn't care for excuses. You will have to pay for your actions.”


“Justice doesn't care for excuses, Knight Mistress? Does that mean Justice is blind?”


“Yes. Justice is absolute, and Justice is blind,” I told him, looking at him. His crying ceased and he stared straight at me.


“You're completely sure, Sigrid?” Something in his tone had changed. It was as if he knew something I did not.


“Er... yes,” I replied, confused by his sudden change of demeanor. Almost instantaneously, the situation reversed. Lord Morek now crouched with me over the Squire's body, instead of the other way around.


“You're sure your sense of Justice is absolute, Sigrid?” Lord Morek asked, “If I asked you to help me cover this up, you would, wouldn't you? If this boy was dead and I still lived, you would help me hide the body. You may even take the fall for me if need be, wouldn't you?”


I was too surprised to say anything. If Lord Morek had accidentally committed murder, I probably would help him out. “I... My Lord... I..”


“What has changed? If your sense of Justice is as blind as you like to claim, then nothing has changed. Yet something has changed. I would like you to tell me what.”


I thought about it for a few minutes. It was the same situation. Why would my response be so completely different? I finally said, “I don't know.”


“Then you need to think about it.”

***

And with that, I was thrown back into my own mind. I don't think I've ever had so lucid of a hallucination before. Is it a sign? It is a vision? Am I just crazy? I have more questions than answers right now, but at least I am calm.


~~~~~


Secondmonth 22


I saw something again today. This time, it was a memory I had long forgotten. Again, I will write it down for future reference. I was about eight years old when the incident happened.

***

“Hey, Sigrid, look what I got!” Brianne ran into the alleyway where I had been playing. Brianne ran over to me and showed me a very shiny metal badge.


“What's that?”


“It's a guard badge! A real De-Shamod guard badge. And a guard's belt knife too.”


“Where'd ya get that stuff?”


“The evening guard Ta-Seran at the Redwen gate always falls asleep. I filched it off of him.” The Redwen gate was only a couple blocks north of where we were.


“Don'tcha think he'll want it back?”


“Yeah, so? If we don't tell them we have it, they won't know.”


We played in the alleyway for a little while longer. When we decided to go somewhere else, Brianne picked up the knife and the badge off the ground and ran with me out of the alleyway. As we emerged onto the street, Brianne ran straight into Ta-Saren. She tripped and dropped the badge and the knife.


“Hey! Watch where you're going, you little gob-friend!” He looked down at her, and caught sight of the knife and the badge on the ground, “What do you have there?” He leaned down and picked up his possessions, “Interesting,” he muttered, “did you steal these from me?” He grabbed her ear and pulled on it.


“We found it.”


Ta-Saren let go of Brianne and looked at me. “What did you say? Speak up”


“We found it. We were jus' playin', and we found this stuff. We were running t'go give it to a guard,” I lied through my teeth. Ta-Saren frowned and squatted down eye-level to me. I wasn't sure if he believed me or not.


“It's odd that you just happened to find my personal possessions less than a half-bell from when I realized they were missing,” he glanced at Brianne, and then back at me. He stood up. “I guess you two really aren't worth the paperwork though. Move along, you little maggots, and stay out of trouble.” With a quick gait, he walked off.


Brianne looked at me with awe in her eyes. “You didn't have to stand up to me you know.”


“Yeah I did. You're my friend, aren't ya?”

***

It was then that I snapped back to the present. I don't entirely see how that particular piece of my childhood would help me solve “Lord Morek's” quandary, but perhaps I will have better luck tomorrow.


~~~~~


Secondmonth 23


Another day, another memory. Have I just lost my mind?

***

It was the summer of my 17th year. I had been working for Loghan Gorrison the Smith for almost three years now. A large part of his business involved making weapons and armor for local Order of the Axe chapterhouses and shipping it out of the city. The guards in De-Shamod didn't know about this. If they had, they would have inconvenienced us. So, we made several small shipments at the port instead of arousing suspicion by shipping a whole boat full of arms at one time.


I was running one of these small shipments down to the port one day. I was within sight of the river when I was stopped by a guardsman. Not just any guardsman either. This was a Sergeant. Sergeant Gen-Delart.


“You're Loghan Gorrison's ward, aren't you? What are you delivering to the port today?”


There was no point in lying about what I had. He could check the cart and know instantly. “Arms.”


“And where might these items be being shipped to?”


“Mr. Gorrison's family farm downriver. They're having some trouble wit' monsters or somethin'.”


“Monsters? Why not just call in Diamond Throne soldiers to deal with them? It is no matter I suppose. Can I see your export papers then?” he asked. I gladly complied. I did have official export papers. Mr. Gorrison had connections within the De-Shamod Office of Trade.


“Can I go now?” I asked, as he looked over the papers.


“Not so fast. These all seem to be in order, but I suppose Loghan Gorrison would know how to cover his tracks,” he thrust the papers back at me. “Perhaps we can come to some sort of arrangement?”


“What d'ya mean?”


“I don't believe these goods are going to Loghan Gorrison's family's farm. I am not entirely sure where they are going, but maybe you know. Perhaps some Royals could help you remember?”


I gulped. Royals? I had never even laid eyes on a platinum coin before. Most people just used Queens (though I hadn't had many of those either, really).


“Would 20 Royals jog your memory?” He pulled the platinums out of his belt pouch. I stared in awe. That was more money than I had made in my entire life. I sighed.


“That's a lot of money, Sergeant, but I don't remember nothin' 'cept what I already told ya.”


“Would 5 more Royals help?”


“Nah. I told ya, I don't remember nothin' else.”


“Look, girl, I know that these arms are going somewhere. Just tell me where. Some ragtag militia? The Order of the Axe? The Free Cities of the South? Pirates? All you have to do is tell me, and I'll give you 50 Royals. Just say something!”


“I don't know what ya want me t'say. I already told ya everything.”


The Sergeant glared at me, angry. “Then get out of my sight! I will discover what you and your fine master are up to girl, just wait and see!” And with that he strolled off, shoving into me as he pushed past my cart.

***

As far as I know, Sergeant Gen-Delart never did catch up to Loghan. Then again, I did leave De-Shamod to join the Order less than three months after this confrontation. I left that city and never looked back.


~~~~~


Secondmonth 24


The most recent memoric vision I had was still fresh in my mind. It has only been six months since it happened.

***

I frisked my Verrik prisoner for hidden weapons and escorted him to Lord Morek's study, per his instructions. We walked in and I firmly pushed the man into a chair. Lord Morek glanced up from the papers on his desk to look at us.


“There, there now, Knight-Sister Sigrid, there's no need to be brutish with our guest,” Lord Morek said, smiling. This man was a spy, and he was my prisoner. I would treat him however I wished. I stared straight at Lord Morek, frowning. He met my glare with an even harsher one. I glanced away.


“I'm sorry,” I meekly muttered, now looking at the floor.


“Forgive my Knight. She often forgets her manners with... guests of your caliber. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Morek, and this, as you know, is a chapterhouse of the Order of the Axe.”


“I am but a weary sailor, Lord Morek. I stopped here only for room and board.”


Lord Morek sighed. “And I thought we could skip through the part where you lie to me and just get to the interesting bit. We know you're a spy. Our doors are open to all travelers, but most do not enter and begin asking questions about our current interests and operations.”


“I can't begin to understand the problem, Lord Morek. I am simply curious about your Order. I meant no harm.”


“Again with the lies!” Morek threw his hands in the air, “Can you believe this man, Sigrid?”


“No, my Lord, I can't.”


“Now, Sigrid may be a bit rough with people at times, but she is a very good judge of character. If she doesn't trust your naïvety, then I certainly don't,” Morek paused, his eyes focused on the prisoner, “So, why don't you tell us who you are, and who you're working for.” The Verrik was silent for a moment, and then began to laugh.


“I don't see the humour,” I commented.


“I'm not telling you anything! Torture me, kill me, I'll say nothing!”


“Well, if we killed you, you really wouldn't say anything,” I commented.


Lord Morek chuckled. “Sigrid has a point. Now, let's just think about this situation for a moment. You are effectively stuck on this island with us. If you tell us what we want to know, we will let you go. If you don't, then you may be our guest for a very long time.”


The man looked at Lord Morek. “I don't care. I would follow my leader to the grave. There is nothing you can do change that.”


“This is getting nowhere. Sigrid, escort this man to the dungeon.”


“With pleasure, my Lord.”


I brought the Verrik to the dungeon and passed him off to a guard. The Order very rarely had prisoners, and he was the only one at the moment. He would spend a cold, hungry night in the dank recesses of the Chapterhouse, but he would otherwise be unharmed. Lord Morek didn't advocate torture. The dungeon was still not a very pleasant place, however.


The next morning, Lord Morek sent for me to bring the prisoner back to him. The man still told him nothing. This went on for two weeks. On his fifteenth visit to Lord Morek, something very unexpected happened. Morek told me to bring him back to the dungeon and then come back to his study. I did.


“Go prepare our guest's boat for launch.”


“Excuse me, Lord Morek?”


“I'm letting him go. He's not going to tell us who sent him. We need to let him go.”


“Why? He's a spy, possibly from the Steward of Ao-Manasa himself. Why would we let him go?”


“Partially so we don't get accused of kidnapping an agent of the Diamond Throne, but that's not my main reason.”


“Would you care to enlighten me?”


“I respect him. I dislike whomever he's working for. I dislike that he tried to spy on the Order, but I have a great respect for him. Many men in his situation would have told me what I wanted to know so he could get out of that dungeon and be on his way. He has spent 14 nights down there. That's quite a feat.”


“So, you respect him because our dungeon doesn't bother him?”


“No, Sigrid, I respect his loyalty. It's something I wish I saw more in my own men and women.”


“The Knights here are loyal to you and the Order.”


“Yes, but how loyal, Sigrid? Would you die to further the cause?”


“Yes.”


“Would you really, or do you just think you would? Would your survival mechanism kick in, or is your devotion really so absolute? You care a lot about Justice. What if I ordered you to do something unjust?”


“I... I suppose it would matter what it was.”


“Ah, so your loyalty is conditional, just as everyone's loyalty is conditional. Loyalty should not be blind. If I were to order you to murder Giant children so they could not grow up to become agents of the Diamond Throne, I would not want your loyalty to me to get in the way of your morals. There are always some exceptions. Some conditions. Even Champions of Life have to cause a death at times.”


“I don't understand your point.”


“Maybe you will someday. Right now, you need to ready the Verrik's ship and release him.”

***

I think I may be starting to understand what Lord Morek meant. Things make more sense now.


~~~~~


Secondmonth 25


Today's vision was perhaps the most disturbing I have had yet. I had to face my personal daemons, only to find they were... myself.

***

I found myself in a rich, luxurious office. The furniture was scaled for Giants. A human woman with light brown curly hair sat at the desk, busily working. She eventually looked up at me. She looked very familiar.


“By Malleus' Beard... I do not have time for this. Sit down, Sigrid.” I complied, sitting in the chair across the desk from her.


“How do you know who I am?”


“Are you spell-brained woman? Or have you just not looked in a mirror in awhile? I'm not that much older than you, you should recognize me.”


“You're me? Just... older looking.”


“I guess I wasn't the brightest thing when I was your age. How old are you? What point in our life are you at? Spit it out, Sigrid, I don't have all day.”


“I'm... I'm 25. I've just recently joined this... crew... Blank, Rellik, Soern, Mark... You do know them, yes?”


“I am you. I do know those... despicable people,” Older Me scowled. “You're on that spirit journey you took in 1759. I'm going to talk to you, you're going to either listen to me or not, and then we'll be done.”


“What... what are we supposed to talk about?”


“You. Me. Us. Whatever.”


“Well, what have... er, we... done with... our life?”


“I am currently in charge of Ao-Manasa.”


“What? Why?”


“For Justice, of course.”


“How is taking over Ao-Manasa just?”


“It's a long story. I guess I should start from right after our spirit journey of 1759. That spirit journey solidified in my mind the path of Justice. I knew that not only would I have to continue Championing Justice, but I would have to devote my life to it. I could not be wishy-washy. I started by killing those... awful pirates I was traveling with.”


“I... We... You killed Blank, Rellik, Soern and Mark.”


“What's wrong with that? They are pirates, after all. Unjust, terrible pirates. Anyway, after their deaths, I returned to the Order. I confronted Morek about the Order's lack of action. We claimed we sought self-rule for all races, but we never did anything to make it happen.”


“Progress takes time. These things can't be rushed.”


“Shut up. You're young and foolish. Anyway, Morek told me the same thing you just did. He was standing in the way of Justice. It took a few years to plan and coordinate, but I did what I had to do.”


“What you had to do?”


“I killed Morek and took over the Chapterhouse?”


“How did you do that?”


“I had help, obviously. The young were very persuadable to my cause. They knew what we must do.”


“You organized the young... the squires? Some of them are only fourteen!”


“They understood why I had to act. Morek's death and replacement was justified. We needed someone who would act more in line with the greater good. We needed someone who would stand up and fight the Diamond Throne. After taking control of the Chapterhouse, I spent the next couple years fighting off the Knights that Lords of other Chapterhouses kept sending. The Order did not approve of my actions, so I left them. The Chapterhouse became the new headquarters for my guild: The Just Blade. Eventually the Order of the Axe left me alone. I gained quite a following. We had to build new buildings all across the island just to house the new recruits. It took me four more years, but I finally was able to put my plan into action.” Older Me smiled dreamily, as if reminiscing.


“Your... plan? What plan?”


“To take back Ao-Manasa from the Diamond Throne, of course. To correct the injustices that non-giants had been suffering for all these years. The giants had to be made to pay for their crimes. The battle for the city raged on for many months. We killed many, many giants. We finally got through to the castle. I killed the Steward with my own blade.”


“How is this... Just?”


“Ao-Manasa is under my totalitarian rule. My military makes sure that order is kept. Trials are swift.”


“This whole scenario just seems so... impossible. How could one person do all of this so quickly? How many people had to die for your perfect city?”


“Anyone who died, died in the name of Justice. And it is the individuals who shape history, Sigrid. It all starts with one person. One person with a grand goal is all it takes to shape the world. I was concerned the Diamond Throne would send the military to take Ao-Manasa back, but they have been too busy putting down rebellions all over the Diamond Throne. I've inspired change.”


“You've inspired tyranny. How can you sit there and justify the deaths of thousands of people, most of whom were completely innocent?”


“Innocent? They were Giants.”


“That doesn't mean they're unjust people. It's their government that's bad, not them. If you kill and oppress the Giants, you are no better than they are. In fact, you are worse.”


“I don't remember being this argumentative on my spirit journey.”


“Well, maybe you should have been. Maybe you would have realized what you would become. What of your loyalties to the Order of the Axe?”


“They were weak.”


“They were sane! How could I be you? I can't... I can't do all these horrible things. I won't.”


“You already are me, just not yet. You'll soon hear the strong call to Justice that has made me who I am today,” my Older self leaned forward and looked at me.


“It's not Justice that drove you to this, it's your perversion of Justice. It all started now, with Mischa, Gannen, and Ea-Shamar, with Rellik, Blank, and Soern, with Morek and the Order. Now is my turning point. I can still turn away from this. I have to. Justice is a great and noble cause, but maybe it isn't the right cause for me. I'm far too passionate. I'll go out of control with it. I need... something to hold me back. Something I can follow, not lead. Something...”

***

I slipped back into the present without another word from my “future self.” Was that really the path I was on? Or was it just a vision, and not the actual future? I will never know now, since I will not follow in my, er, her footsteps.


~~~~~


Secondmonth 26


I saw something again today. It has never happened, but it felt very real.

***

I hit the giant lizard again, badly injuring it. It fell over, twitching. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another of the beasts pounce onto Soern, and begin tearing him apart. I turned and ran, striking the foul beast away with the Aur Xica. Blank scored the killing blow as I leaned down over Soern. There was so much blood, but he was still clinging to life. My friend was dying. I had to do something. But there was nothing I could do. I tried to stop the bleeding, but it was uncontrollable. Even with all the powers of Justice at my disposal, I couldn't help him. He died right in front of me, and there was nothing I nor Justice could do to save him. I felt responsible. He was my friend, and I couldn't even protect him.

***

It seemed so real.


~~~~~


Secondmonth 27


I finally understood. After a week of painful emotional visions, I finally knew.

***

I found myself once again at the bottom of the stairwell with Lord Morek. The body of the young squire lay at our feet.


“So, Sigrid, do you have an answer for me? What about the situation has changed?”


“My loyalties towards you are stronger than they are towards this Squire. His death is tragic, but it was an accident, and my loyalty to you and the Order make me want to protect you.”


“Your loyalty gives you strength. Just be careful that your loyalty isn't blind. Be Loyal, True, and Honourable, but make sure to follow your Conscience as well.”



***


I call upon the power of Loyalty. Grant me the power to follow and protect the people that are important in my life.


~~~~~

1 comment:

Rae said...

Yeah, I know, it's long. I hope it's not as incoherent as I seem to think it is though.