Thazar-De --- Prayers to Bane
((I'll post some of the things concerning this cleric of Bane here, could go to Tales of the Fire, perhaps, but you never know))
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._
Maybe it was his heritage that revealed it, maybe the blade reflected some moonlight. Whatever the reason when Thazar-De woke and opened his eyes, he saw the long blade hovering over him, glimpsed the shadow of the hand holding it. And then it came rushing down at him, fell straight like a drop of water, and pushed its path into his chest. Pain soared through him, he opened his mouth to open another path for it, to scream all the agony out of his body but then he felt his strength leaving him. He felt the wetness under him, knew it for his blood that stained the blanket. In an desperate effort he tried to rise himself, rise from his deathbed then the numbness took him, slowly replacing the unbearable pain and so he welcomed it.
When he had been a little boy, life had appeared to be happy for Thazar-De. Then his life knew only joy. Living with his mother, the young half-elf had grown up expecting to become a part of a small elven community. His name, then, had been Taeghen, son to Quamara Moonrise, aspiring sorceress and daughter to the leader of the elves. She had seen to it that he would grow up as one of the elves. In turn, he had loved her like a son can love his mother. Among elves, though, he grew up too fast and quickly the games the elven children of his age played became too childish for him, and if he participated he outdid them greatly. It must have been the happiest days of his life, but as all happy things, they end much too soon.
Still barely more than a child, Taeghen had proven to be too much of a burden for the community and an unwelcome reminder of the fateful day of his conception. It might have been the fight with an elf of the almost the same age, but while an elf below twenty is really just an infant, a half-elf begins to deveolop real muscles. When the elves saw the badly bruised elven child, they remembered the assault on their camp not fifteen years ago. It didn't matter who attacked who for the elves nor had the human army cared. They had come through the wood, had attacked the elves, burned down houses, killed the man and raped the women. From such an unholy union Thazar-De had sprung, but now, reminded of this, the elves demanded that he be sent away, that he grow with human children. No matter how hard Quamara tried to convince them that a child needed love, motherly love, they insisted, fearing for their pure elven children.
So when the trader Ramas Anskuld found his way to the elves and proved willing to take Taeghen with him, Quamara had to let him go. The proud elven sorceress made herself believe the promises of good care Ramas had easily given, but still she shed tears when the small group left the woods, and she stood there, watching her crying son wave to her from the wagon. One day after they had left the woods, Ramas put a collar around Taeghen's neck and told him that from now on, he would serve him and he made sure that Taeghen understood the price of disobeying would be the whip. Also he told him that from now on, his name would be Thazar-De and no fancy elven name anylonger.
The numbness reminded Thazar-De of his time as a slave. Then, there was a simple rule: Do as your told and the pain will be less. Please your master, and you might be rewarded all the pleasures you can get. The murderer left the sword stuck in his chest and quit the room, leaving him stabbed but still alive. Going with the pain, Thazar-De followed the flow of his blood, slowing it down until his heartbeat was barely discernible. All the time his eyes remained open, staring blankly ahead. It took him a while to realize that a moment ago he had expected to die and he hadn't been afraid of it, he had accepted it. Now he slowly lifted his weak arm and put a hand where the cold blade had entered his chest. Then he began the longest prayer of his life.
The first cruel lesson Thazar-De learnt in his life was that Taeghen's life had been a lie. Of course he tried to run back to what he thought was home. But each time he was caught and given to the whip, aching for days afterwards. Slowly, then he understood that his own mother, that his family had not wanted him, had given him to this, and with understanding came accepting. He stopped thinking of himself as Taeghen, hid the elven features he bore like his slightly pointy ears and the golden specks in his green eyes.
Unlike among the elves, Thazar-De now grew up too slowly for Ramas' taste. Five years in his service, Thazar-De had traveled through most of Unther, Mulhorand and even Thay, but had still remained a child. Or maybe he had just decided that Thazar-De had become a proper slave and was good enough to be sold now. Thazar-De didn't know whether to curse his fate or not, but he had learnt to accept it anyway. So he went obediently with the dark priests that had bought him. Those priests had seen in him, though, the marks of Bane.
His first steps on becoming a servant of their god was cleaning the stables, surprisingly quick though, he got appointed to clean the rooms and then even was allowed to help out in the kitchen. That allowed him access to left-over food and he quickly learnt to use these to get the other slaves to owe him small favors. The masters were obviously very pleased by this and allowed him, together with Marcone and Sefris, to be taught the knowledge of the one true god, Bane. Master Jandar took special care to foster Thazar-De's relationship to elves, twisting the last sentiments of love and fond memories he held into a burning hatred.
While Marcone pleased Master Aoth with his combat skills and Sefris developed enjoyable womanly features, Thazar-De impressed both Masters and even Mistress Thola with his childish and complete obedience. So it seemed when the time had come that one of them moved into the ranks of the clergy that the natural choice would be Thazar-De. All three of them had gone through some tests, Thazar-De even had to torture an elf, managing the difficult task of not letting his hatred take over. But when the final night had come and he had prepared his speech for the next day, confident that he would be able to convince the clerics, little had he known of the surprise that would wake him in the middle of the night.
The sun rose even before he had pulled the blade out of him by more than the breadth of a hand. His eyes open, he watched the light falling in through his window, the spot travelling across his cell while he slowly, ever so slowly pulled the sword out, always whispering his prayers. None had come to check on him, they all must have accepted that he would not become a proper cleric. The sun already disappeared behind the horizon, when he found himself able to sit on his bed, knowing he had no longer a place here. It took him the better half of the new night to collect his strength enough to pack what little he called his own. Then he left the temple quietly, leaving behind a blood stained room, the wound on his chest ever a painful reminder of all he had learnt.