—If we’re all agreed they deserve to die, why stop?!– Tervud pressed. He blocked a side-stroke on the right and stepped into a chop down at the Shadow-Him’s head, which it deflected. Did the illusion truly generate force, or was his subconscious mind tricking itself? Contemplating that almost got him spitted on the Shadow-Him’s Sonderhau; he dodged back and knocked the thrust away with a downcut from Reckoner.
—The beginning of a journey sets all its paths to come,– Sonderhau answered. –This time it’s obvious what we must do. Later it will not be! You must learn to judge for yourself, brother.–
–Innocent people die while we deliberate!– Tervud sent. He threw a severing whirlwind of cuts at the Shadow-Him, right upper-left upper-left down-right vertical. The shadow blocked them all, knocked the vertical aside with a swipe of its Sonderhau–Schattenhau?–and bound up Reckoner on the return stroke, pushing in beneath its own Reckoner to pierce his neck. Shaking his head, Tervud banished the shadow.
–You will kill innocent people if we do not!– Sonderhau snapped. The sword paused. –You named me in cruel jest. Now hear my truth: the core of our path, of the path She bids us take, is this: to cleave the wicked, we must know who they are. Many times, those we must destroy will have lovers or spouses, children and friends, homes and great dreams. They may sing beautifully, sculpt wonders, dance gracefully. These things are not their redemption.
They are the single greatest proof of their sin.
When a viper bites a child, does a wise man say the viper is evil?–
—Of course not,– Tervud said, seeing the meaning already. –Vipers strike. It’s all they know.–
–But the humans we seek know kindness, and warmth, and righteousness, but disgraced this knowledge. Confronting their failures, Tervud, would have made them uncomfortable.– For the first time, Sonderhau sounded truly furious. Its blade voices warped and reverberated, and carried a grainy sound like a butcher’s knife sliding slowly, so slowly, through flesh. –They destroyed Malija because admitting she was human, that she’d done nothing wrong, that her suffering was real and undeserved, would’ve made them uncomfortable.—
–Compassion for the wicked,– Reckoner agreed, –comes from disregard for the innocent.–
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