Another short fanfic, in which Chao struggles with his mistrust of his undead battle mates.
Chao stood back for a moment as the battle raged around him. He often found solace in the midst of battle - somehow, the roiling conflict, heroes flashing spells and troops plowing into battle around him, filled him with an odd sense of inner peace, the eye of the storm. He knew that he fought for light, for good, for truth.
But today, while Kelile shrieked and flung her daggers of fire to his left, and Gunnar used his magic to split the incoming damage, he was focused on the ‘so-called’ hero Cyprian, one of the undead knights, draw upon necromantic forces to deflect blows and win the edge.
He may have been beautiful when he was alive, but now with his pallid appearance and syphilitic nose, he just seemed an abberation.
Flicking his attention back to the battle, Chao saw his moment to act… He summoned his Mana and let fly.
As the monsters around them fell, those left standing shrieked and ran, clutching damaged limbs and wounded allies.
“Attend!” he barked. Kilile smoothed blood from her limbs and sheathed two of her knives, and the reptilian Ishhtak hissed as he kicked at a severed head. His four allies gathered around him.
“Good fight, friends. These village folks will sleep peacefully tonight. Kelile, have some of your men set camp for us.”
“You seem…distant, Chao,” the dark-skinned woman said after assigning tasks. “Your head wasn’t in the fight. I know you. Care to talk?”
“No. I need… No, yes. Yes, I would.” He touched the woman’s elbow and led her a short distance from the group. “Cyprian. How well do you know him?”
“Not well.” Kelile glanced over at the undead knights, who was licking blood and gore from his blade like a child with a lollipop. “I know he wasn’t old when he turned, but beyond that… He fights well. Like a savage.”
“He does, I’ll admit. And when he’s in battle, he - it’s as if he’s fighting more than… Oh this is a foolish concern.”
“Never. You’re a man with a conscience. Go on.”
"I - I follow the light. I know where my alliegance lies. I defend Corellia, the Stronghold. I fight for the holy call."
Kelile studied her friend’s face as he paused, gathering his thoughts.
“He - Cyprian, others like him. That rogue, Layla. Do we really know them? Their motive? They claim alliegance to an unholy force… Darkness, death. Necromancy. Can they really be trusted? How do I know he won’t turn on me while I sleep? The evil one…” He let his words drift.
“Chao…” Kelile stood before her armored all. She was almost a foot shorter than him, but here she seemed to tower over him, confident and severe. “I spoke with Fletcher once, that boy. Remember him? He calls upon dark forces as well. I’d seen him talking to one of the undead, though he himself drew living breath. Despite his age, he was quite worldly.” She sat down and patted the ground beside her, and Chao obediently sat like a small child.
“I asked him what he hoped to gain, fighting for the losing side. ‘The path of darkness leads only to despair,’ I’d said.” The diminutive woman paused as one of her soldiers came by with fresh meat and cups of wine.
"He asked me if I’d heard the story of the dark wizard and the wounded boy, and a disreputable teacher. They all attended a school for the magic arts. The teacher had been secretly protecting the boy all along, though he let the wizard think he’d allied with dark forces."
Chao nodded, remembering. The stories were popular among many serving the Stronghold.
"Fletcher told me that he, and Layla, and those others - the deads, they call them - serve two masters. They feel the call of darker forces - Layla calls it ‘wearing the purple’ - but they are not fooled by what’s at stake should the Stronghold fall. They risk as much as any other."
Kelile sat back as her friend mulled over her words, his cup empty in his hand.
"But… being so…so close to the fire, as it were, can they be trusted not to… fall in? You know what I mean."
Kelile studied her friend’s face in the fading light. It was obvious he’d been wrestling with this moral question for a while.
“Chao. I know you, and I’ve spent a lot of time with your tutor. Bane would understand, the balanced line they walk. The purple beckons them, but not the bl…” She paused, considering her words.
“The light, your holy mission,” she said slowly, "is purity. But your colour is yellow. Not white. You are walking a balance between divine purity and material humanity. Our friends - living and otherwise - walk a similar line. Their colour is not black, but purple. They see the light, the promise, still evident in the dark places. That’s why they walk a path like the teacher in those stories. Showing one hand but playing another."
Chao stood and stretched, studied the darkening sky.
“It’s almost dusk,” he observed. “The sky grows dark. But I know --” he paused and took Kelile’s hand in his own, a twinkle in his eye, “-- the darkest hour is never the end. And the light is always a promise away.”
“And our battle-mates, the deads?”
“They are the dusk. I am the dawn. We may be opposites but we write the same story.”