“They named the bow Wiliken,” said the githzerai. The tribunal of Douglas, the wizard Jenkins, and the Baroness of Felshore sat before him, not in some regal courtroom or even in a public square. The three protectors of the Shining City sat on a bed in the barracks, and the githzerai on a wooden chair, no chains and no ropes, but also nowhere to hide. “I think it was the githzerai elders. I have trouble remembering that time. My adopted father named me Embrion, just as I named my own son Embrion, but I took the name Iiuza while training to become a blackguard, and so also with my son. The nearest translation for the deep tongue word wiliken is ‘true shot.’ As for Iiuza, this word means ‘Son of Iuz.'”
A chill went through the room. None in the Felshore seemed to have any problem speaking of the kingdom of Iuz, the Iuzians, nor even the dark Lord Iuz himself, but the githzerai suspected that Iuz had a different meaning in this city out of time. For the Shining City mere moments had passed between the complete destruction of the surrounding areas and the future some decades later, but for the githzerai and the rest of the world the time had crawled. The hours and days crawled slowly during the in-between time, and as the world began to forget the city that once was, the rumors had spread of how it was put to ruin, tendrils of gossip running from village to village about the one responsible. It was the Son of Iuz, a legendary figure whose heart was supposedly filled with malice. The githzerai could see the truth unfolding in the eyes of those gathered, for even during their short tenure in this time period they must have become acquainted with the cautionary tomes, the vulgar drawings on ruins, but now they understood that the destroyer, this Son of Iuz, sat before them and they were reverent to that fact.
“You,” said Douglas. “You brought this city to ruin. You murdered countless innocents. It was YOU who fired the arcane weapon upon us.”
“And it was only because of those gathered before me today that the death toll was not greater,” the githzerai said. “I am no arcanist, but it was I who gathered all of the innocent children needed to power the weapon, and it was I who introduced them to my blade. I suspect Valgaman was looking for history to repeat itself when he invited me to his palace. Perhaps my son requested that he invite me as a test, to see if I am the ‘traitor’ he believes me to be. But I would not repeat what I did that day. I vowed never to kill an innocent or to raise my hand to one weaker than myself as I watched that beautiful city fall. I dropped my sword and have never again picked it up. That said, I am responsible for enough deaths to damn myself a thousand times over, and none of my actions since then can atone for what I have done.”
There was silence.
“Are you surprised your son followed in your footsteps?” Douglas asked.
“He couldn’t follow in my footsteps,” the githzerai said. “I was born with a father who cared for me, who guided me on the path to manhood. True, he was an Iuzian, and his love lead me to a very destructive place, but I always felt supported. My son… was never supported. At least, not by me. When he was old enough he trained to be blackguard. The son of Iiuza, and yet he struck fear in nobody. He was never meant to be a warrior. He should have been something better, perhaps a builder or a poet. But he took the name Iiuza even though it didn’t fit, and his cruelty surpassed my own. I never wanted to prove myself evil. I just followed the path set before me. Embrion is set on proving to the world that he was chosen by the god Iuz, and I’m convinced he’ll kill anyone… perhaps everyone… to make his point.”
The three judges exchanged glances. Is this the moment, the githzerai wondered. Is this the moment where they hold me before their justice? When they pronounce my death?
The baroness looked forlorn. “Iiuza… Or Embrion… How do we stop him?”
“I’d hoped to devise a plan with Jurgen,” said the githzerai. “He had suggested that I help him find the remnants of the arcane weapon. I had intended to tell him whatever he wanted to know if he’d help me rescue my wife and stop my son. But now Jurgen is gone…”
The darkness that had first crossed the baroness’s face had crept its way onto the visage of both Douglas and the wizard. This was the moment in which all would be revealed. The githzerai expected that they would find his answers not good enough. He expected death, and in the most private confines of his heart he welcomed it. There had been a moment when the githzerai first saw Douglas again in which he’d wanted to bum rush the man, to snap his neck before the wizard could strike him down. If he had only been allowed to leave the Felshore instead of spending those long weeks imprisoned. If only he could have sent a message. But Douglas’s only concern was for the precious city. In that moment, the githzerai had wanted to kill them all for letting his wife die. In truth, the githzerai knew that he could have broken out of his prison at any moment, and if he’d really been that concerned he could have escaped the city without anyone noticing. It didn’t matter that Douglas watched his every move. If he’d cared he could have been invisible. But he didn’t care. His wife’s blood was on the githzerai’s own hands. He was alone in the world, without purpose, wasting away the moments until “Iiuza” caught the githzerai and murdered him for a blood traitor. Better that Douglas kill him now.
“Do you have a backup plan?” Jenkins asked.
“No,” the githzerai said. “I would have to think about it.”
“Then you will think about it outside of this dank prison,” Jenkins said. “The Shining City is open to you in its entirety, and you are free.”
Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 19.
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