Zy’an sat amongst the familiar stones and crossed his legs. His blood, their blood, lay everywhere. It was mixed with the bile and putrescence of the creature. The creature that should not have been. The beast that nearly got into their minds and changed who they were forever.
The battle had been close, and he knew it, as did they all. They were lucky to escape with their lives. Now, alive, he began his meditation, with a single question. And as if he had never been gone, the familiar peace, despite the stimulus of the negative around him returned to his mind here at the monastery where it all began for him. It was comforting, and what he needed after the probing and filthy attacks of the thing they had fought. His question was simple: If this could exist here, how did it come to be and what did that mean?
To answer his question, his mind returned to a memory of sitting in this very room, upon the very stones in which he now rested. He saw, in his memory a child. A child and his masters. And training. A training that he accepted without question. Until one day, like he did now, he learned that a good question sometimes outweighs a good answer.
There sat the child, before him. The present faded, and the past returned. He saw the young man, the sweated brow, and the body in what the monastery called a thinking posture. Around him, stood the trainers. The teachers and tutors of the Way of the Long Death.
After years of rigorous and stern tutelage, the child he now saw had grown to feel a devout loyalty. From his view, to the stranger but solely to the stranger and not the institution that he represented. He’d learn that the pressure points the stranger had shown off were only the beginning of what he had learned from the suffering of large, dark creatures captured. Their lives extended as long as possible in agony for the sake of their knowledge.
This was the norm for years until months before the Monastery was no longer where the child called home. Different beings, more like the vendor than the beings he’d seen before, were brought in, causing heated discussion by a small, opposed few, including the stranger.
Everyone was aware of what was happening: the experiments being done on the creatures of the Darkness were no longer going to be exclusive to them. Experimentally, you need a comparison point when looking for precise differences, so it only made sense to bring those who thrived in the light for comparative studies. It was the logical and pragmatic decision that would lead to the ultimate goal.
The stranger opposed this from a moral standpoint, one that had been partially shared by the one who was once the child. The dissenting voices became stronger and were met with resistance in the form of rhetoric at first, followed by shows of force. The stranger’s imposing frame could not overcome that of several monks trained in the same art. The child was held first to make sure no complications would come to the institutional plans.
An ultimatum was given to the child to show true loyalty to the Monastery, though it solely lied with the stranger. A bloodied, restrained, yet defiant Firbolg was brought to the child’s feet. The ultimatum was simple: one dies or both die. Handed a weapon again, this time a spear, the child struggled with the decision, looking to the face of the stranger for any kind of signal. One might have been overpowered but between the two of them they could have a better chance, the child thought. But the stranger did not share this mindset. When asked again to make a choice by leaders of the Monastery, the stranger gave a minuscule and subtle nod.
The spear’s tip appeared on the other side of the Firbolg, whose body went limp in moments. The child was congratulated for the commitment and dedication shown to the Monastery in that action and rewarded with a new position. In the morning, a new round of training would begin that would reflect a new status within the institution.
Sleep did not come easy that night. After a couple of hours awake, the child drifted into a dream that seemed too realistic. Visions were not something that had previously been experienced but felt increasingly familiar to the child as it went on. Gasping and sweating, the child awoke from the vision with confusion but a sense of urgency. Light had not yet peaked over the horizon but the child, bag and spear in tow, was leaving the grounds. It was dangerous but necessary, though it would not be dark for long and that would bring a danger of a different sort. The Dark always had a sense of peril but, for someone who had no gone into self-imposed exile, the Light in the nearby areas was no longer completely safe either.