III. A Lesson for Soldiers
_While Thazar-De removed his ceremonial robes and slowly put on his armor, the soldier stood there, apparently still pondering. He admitted to Thazar-De's assumption, more or less, by asking what he feared. He adjusted a strap on his armor, moving the arm piece in place and turned to look at the soldier.
With one hand he held up the metal gauntlet and explained in short words, that there are plenty of things to fear. And that fear is important, and good to feel. But also, that a true servant of the Black Hand should never be allowed to let fear overrule thinking. Cruelly aware of being the one responsible for any failure of his minions, Thazar-De then told his charge that he would be taught to not fail again._
The tall soldier entered through the door, standing at ease in front of him and simply stating: "You requested my presence."
Thazar-De looked calmly up at the soldier, regarding him even as he gave a slight nod. "Do you know why?"
"No, I do not," answered the soldier, unflinching even. Thazar-De tried to stay calm, keeping his voice soft and friendly. "In a fight, where is your place?"
"On the front lines," came the swift reply. Thazar-De wondered if the soldier did this on purpose, but for now he had to assume the soldier was really unable to draw a connection. So he kept calm and simply asked on: "When there are no lines?"
"Protecting those who spread the Dark Lord's teachings."
It annoyed Thazar-De that this soldier had the nerves to behave that way, no less directly to his face, too. He nodded once and then lend his voice a slight edge. "Would you say you've succeeded in that, recently?"
"I shall not say anything." At least the soldier seemed to feel guilty, in a remote sense. Thazar-De half-suspected a smile under the helm of this soldier.
_Quietly they left the temple, Thazar-De leading the way through the dark underground city of Oscura. Slowly, always aware of how slippery any surface can suddenly be, he led the man past the well, hoping the screams to set the proper mood. As they went towards the surface, he told the man that he would have to face the fear of death. In his soft and friendly voice, he explained to the soldier that he would not be allowed to defend himself in the caves. Caves that were usually beset by quite aggressive Kuo Toa.
It brought a slight smile to him, but Thazar-De was careful not to show it. They went into the more open cave, the tall soldier easily spotted by the Kuo Toa, while Thazar-De paid attention to move slowly and generally hint at being no threat. It worked, the Kuo Toa swarmed the soldier, beating on him. He needed only one reminder, as the man instinctively punched at a Kuo Toa._
"Were you unaware of that simple role you had to fill," Thazar-De spoke the question, knowing it was high time to make it definite what was all the time spoken about.
"I am always aware of my purpose," the soldier answered calmly. Thazar-De took a deep breath to keep his calm, then he nodded. "Help me understand then, what made you fail it?"
Again, without any sign of flinching the soldier had the nerve to just excuse his actions: "My orders were unclear."
"Unclear?" Thazar-De almost slapped the soldier. For a second he didn't know what to say, then he simply stated the truth: "You apparently didn't stand between the Ettin and me."
"You are," the soldier spoke slowly, pausing a moment, before admitting it: "right."
Finally the man struggled, so Thazar-De followed through with a swift question: "This order was … unclear?"
"The order to attack was unclear," the man stated unmoved. It almost made Thazar-De snap.
"Let me tell you what I think," he began, trying to keep his voice still calm. "I think you were scared of how hard the ettin hit you, I think you let this fear rule you. I think this fear made you forget your orders. Your job. Your purpose."
"I did not forget my Purpose," spat the soldier back, his voice raised slightly. At least he was getting through to the man. "Your purpose was to protect me. Are you saying you conciously ignored it, then?"
"I did not ignore it," the soldier grudingly replied. At least he wasn't a complete idiot. But Thazar-De wasn't going to give the soldier as much as a moment's rest now. "Then why did I die and you lived?"
_Thazar-De noted that the Kuo Toa proved too unskilled to hit the soldier, he made a mental note to have the next one to be punished to strip down, hopefully embarrassing them with that, too. Thazar-De watched the group, and the soldier watched him. Maybe he wanted to point the presence of another out to the Kuo Toa. Or maybe not.
There it was, an opening big enough to allow Thazar-De to reach the soldier. He spoke the words and touched the man with his hand, feeling the summoned energy of death pass from his hand to the man. He watched coldly as the blood of fresh wounds appeared, slowly dripping from under the man's armor._
"You were standing behind me. Was I to protect you from the Ettin?" The man's stubbornness tore at Thazar-De's patience, for a moment he pondered which limb to cut off, then he remembered that as of yet this man might prove to become a useful soldier. And the success depeneded on him, on Thazar-De, so he took another deep breath to clam himself and continued with his questions: "Do I look physically strong to you?"
"No, you do not."
"Then what were you doing behind me?"
"I have no answer to that question." Finally the soldier showed some intelligence, knowing any answer would be a bad idea. Thazar-De sighed softly and went on. "Then I will assume you are at least properly ashamed of having fear overrule you and I will teach you to not fail again."
_At least, the soldier didn't disobey this time and accepted the pain. Even though it brought him to his knees. Thazar-De told him off for that, and watched the pointless attempts of the Kuo Toa to pierce the armor until he got bored and told him to finish the worthless creatures off.
Then he told the soldier that if he became a proper and useful fighter in Bane's service, death would not be the end. In the worst case, it would be a new beginning. As something every soldier of Bane should hope to achieve._