When Jean-Baptiste stood to leave, it felt different this time to the githzerai. It had a strange feeling of finality, as if Wiliken would never see the man again. Despite this, the human’s visage softened and transformed into a smile.
“Thank you,” he said.
“For what?” Wiliken asked.
“Thank you for not asking about Douglas.”
Wiliken knew that there was not much time left to question the old man. He considered asking if Douglas had been the one Jean-Baptiste was sent to protect, but thought better of it. It was not much of a question after all. Douglas seemed to be the only person Jean-Baptiste had any affinity with. He respected the others. Perhaps he even cared for each and every one of them. But Wiliken had lived many years, had seen his friends simply fall asleep, never to awake again. There was a feeling there like Douglas was the only thing keeping Jean-Baptiste alive.
After considering, the githzerai chose a different question to close the conversation, “What is next for me? Ransom? Slavery?”
It was not uncommon for people in border territories to sell their enemies into slavery. Wiliken abhorred the notion. Better to die, he thought. The history books told of a time before the schism of the githzerai and githyanki, when they were one united people, united under the foot of the ilithid, a race of tentacle-faced sentients better known as “mind-flayers.” Before his ancient ancestors rose up against the mind-flayers, they had been slaves to the ilithid for ages untold. Wiliken’s people had known slavery long before even history had been invented. He often wondered, before settling down to sleep, if there had been a Time Before, in which his people had been a free nation, or if his entire race been conceived under the slaver’s whip.
“No,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Nothing like that. You fought nobly at our side, and yet you arrived to an Iuzian event wearing the standard Iuzian grays. At this moment, they do not know if they can trust you. And who can blame them. But you are already a better man than you were yesterday, and tomorrow you will be better yet. Tell them the truth. They will certainly free you once they know the truth.”
“And what is next for you?” Wiliken asked.
“Meditation,” Jean-Baptiste said.
As Jean-Baptiste left the room, he thought upon what Jean-Baptiste had said. Tell them the truth. The old man thought that the truth would set Wiliken free. Earlier the githzerai had suspected that the wise one-time battle companion had surmised Wiliken’s true identity, but once Jean-Baptiste said those words about truth and freedom he showed his ignorance. Some sins are not so easily absolved, Wiliken thought. If they knew the truth, they would kill me on the spot.
Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 17.