Chapter 15 - Alignments
Alignments, as such, only really came into play when choosing and maintaining a relationship with your deity. Matsugo realized pretty quick he couldn’t pick a “good” deity, not that he would, and be a Necromancer, it was a dark art, as was a rouge. Alignments were easily defined when written down on paper like in D&D. But having to live with one was entirely a different story. Deciding an alignment was like choosing your weight, it wasn’t something you just picked by saying, “I’m this,” if you wanted the benefits associated with your choice, you had to work at it.
“I think I’m probably a lawful or neutral and probably tending towards good,” said Devon as he watched Mat squirm.
“I don’t know, I mean…I think I’m too complicated to simplify that easily. I remember in D&D, I think I was true neutral, but they would turn on friends. I won't do that. Right?” asked Matsugo as more of a question than a statement.
“If you want my honest opinion, I think you tend towards one of the lawful alignments. Just think about it and don’t get pissed. Wait, I have a better idea, let me ask questions, you answer, and then I’ll tell you if you're full of shit.” Mat nodded, “Friends?”
“What about them?”
“What are your views towards the treatment of friends, most importantly me, since I’m here with you?”
“I’d kill anyone who tried or did hurt you. You know that.” There was a long pause. Finally, Mat continued, “If I were hired, as a rouge, to kill you, I’d probably kill the person who was offering the contract. You're part of me, not another person.”
“I’d agree, I wouldn't have come with you on this adventure had that not been the case. I trust you with my life. I hope you feel the same about me?”
“Oh, hell, yes. But then you’re protective of everything. I curious how you’re going to deal with killing.”
Shaking his head, Devon agreed, “Yea, I’m not sure about that one yet either.”
“Believe it or not, this is why I think alignments are important, especially for someone like you. You can’t pause to decide if you’re going to kill. How will it affect your alignment? What are the ramifications? You have to know going in. You have to be forced to face the hard lines of what you’re willing, or not willing, to do. When, not if, that time arises, you’ve already worked it out. Pausing in battle or when attacked means you’ve already lost,” said Mat.
Silence descended on the cave as they both let the gravity of Mat’s revelation sink in.
“Ok, what about people you dislike,” said Devon shaking off his fears.
“Fuck em. That also goes for people I don’t know or have no particular feelings for one way or another.”
“Yea, sadly I’ve known that about you for a long time. I can understand the people you don’t like, well not to your extent. Would you cut them slack?”
“You know me; I’m hard to anger. But once you get me there, fuck you and the horse you rode in on. As for enemies, I’d probably hunt them down for free.”
“I guess what bothers me most is your indifference towards the average person on the street. Where do you draw the line?”
“If I don’t know you, I don’t care about you. I have no feelings about you one way or the other.”
“See that comment is just you being you. I’ve seen how courteous you are to other people in your day to day life. When it changes is if you’re forced to develop a judgement about them, either directly or indirectly. I watch how you observe others and how they treat the people and things around them. Judging for yourself what kind of person they are. That's why I think you're lawful. I don't doubt that you’d kill anyone, but I still don’t think you’d kill if you thought the person didn’t deserve it.”
“People will show you their nature. It’s one of the reasons I think I’ll like being a rogue. That ability to observe and then act upon observations lends itself to being able to deal with those people who haven’t earned the luxury of their next breath. It's not about how they say they are. It’s about how they show they are. It's like the bible thumpers back home. They ran around proclaiming their love of God, that's bullshit. They wake up every morning, ignoring his instructions, all they do is actively seek new and inventive ways to hurt other people. You know this better than anyone, after all the shit you've endured. If I could've been a rogue in our old world, the souls of half the people you met would hang proudly from my neck like so many glittering gems, and I’d not miss a second of sleep over it.”
“I know, and I love you for that, but it's also that passion that makes you dangerous and sometimes scares me. In our old home, it would have been such a flaw, here…we’ll see. I don’t know what this world's like, in that sense we do need to get out. If it's like what we read in books, we’re well matched.”
“They said we were like that matters. We’ve always been a good team.”
“That’s true. So, you see, you have a code it's just hard to put it into a clear list.”
“I don’t think anyone has a clear code of conduct; it isn’t that easy. Saying you’ll only act one way and under no circumstances another I believe is a sign of cowardness, not strength. A person has to be willing to violate even their hardest rules if it is in service to a friend, family, or for that matter, the greater good. It's that whole yin/yang thing. We’re both, and must embrace both. I think trying only to act good causes you to redefine the bad things. Take religious people again. They redefine the horrors they do by justifying them through books written thousands of years ago by unevolved barbarians claiming it was the will of God. That is why they are truly evil in my eyes. It's bullshit, and here they will die. I’ll see to that.”
“I know Mat,” agreed Devon, but his mind was racing with worry about his friend turmoil. Mat was a moral person. But like those he talked about, he redefined what morals were so he could say he didn't believe in morals, but he did.
They walked outside and for a while sat sunning under the bright sky. Mat hadn’t bothered to dress; he never did unless told to. Devon was wearing just his tunic. “Did you decide on a weapon?” Mat finally asked.
“Yea, we need range, so it makes sense I go with Archery. I did some in school before, so it’s not entirely relearning. I’ll still carry the short sword…”
“…and dagger. I’m telling you. You need a hidden weapon.”
“Yes Mat, I know. I’ve already agreed with you.”
“You also need to learn how to kill quickly. I’ll work with you on that,” Mat shook his head at Devon’s look. “I know, you don’t like the idea, but you can't tell an attacker to back up so you can shoot them with an arrow. You need to come to grips with the fact you're going to get your hands dirty. The reason I want you to learn to make it quick is both for the victim and yourself. If you don’t draw out their suffering, you won't feel as guilty when it’s over.”
“This is what I’m talking about; you spend time thinking about how to kill. That scares me.”
“Devon I’m a rogue, remember. I kill and steal for a living. Plus, you don’t get to think about these things when you’re standing face to face in conflict. If you haven't already decided, you'll hesitate, once, and then you're dead. This is going to be a problem, isn’t it my little lawful goodie two shoes?”
“Fuck you, and yes, it’s going to be an issue, but I knew that coming in. I knew what you were going to pick before we got here. I know you too well. So in deciding I already knew this was going to be part of the package, and I’ve read enough books to know that death was and is part of the way of things. I don’t want it to become mundane, for you to lose that better side of yourself. So unless we’re being attacked, can you at least try not to kill the barber if he nicks your chin?”
“Um…rogue…not assassin, and yes,” Matsugo said as they both laughed, letting the tension fade but only for a second as Devon noticed Mat’s devilish smile.
“After all, if you see me doing it, I’m not doing it right.”
Devon shook his head and fell back in the grass, “Did you know what weapons I’d pick?”
Looking up at the sky, Mat answered, “I had a pretty good idea, there was a bow and a short sword in the pack. The sword is little more than a glorified letter opener by the way. I figured they had to be yours, but then there were several other weapons. I think they packed for all possibilities. What other decisions do you need to make as a druid?”
Devon set up excited, “At some point, I need to start practicing shifting. I can also find a pet or two. When it comes to shifting, I have two types. My racial abilities, which will take a while to learn and my druidic forms…”
“What are those?”
“I think I get three, a small mammal form, like a cat — a large animal form, like a bear or big lizard, and a flying form.
“That’s so cool. Will you be big enough to ride?” asked Mat with a sideways smile.
“You won’t be riding me. How about you?”
“I can summon a whole list of familiars, all with different abilities or if push comes to shove, I can bring the dead back, including sentient beings, and control them.”
“Yea that sorta freaks me out.”
“Believe it or not, me too. I probably won’t use that one very soon. Though I do see interesting possibilities in bringing someone back.”
“If they…accidently…get killed or die and we need information from them then I can bring them back and compel them to answer. Plus, and yes, I know you won’t like this one, if we’re being bested in a battle, bringing back one of the opponents dead friends will probably throw the attackers off their game.”
“Ok, I’m probably fine with either of those. At least the first one, it’s not as, I don’t know, macabre,” explained Devon.
“Change of subject but do you know why I’ve started getting headaches? It got so bad last night I had to stop studying. If it’s always going to be like this, that could be a problem.”
“You have to take it slow, Mat, the book said we would open up new levels of understanding as we studied, and our minds will need time to adjust.”
“Did you read any of your book? I mean other than the parts about your skills. Now you see why we can’t just run off to a city before we’re ready. We’ve barely scratched the surface.”
“I don’t want to go adventuring. I want to see a town, people, how they live. I think being stuck here is giving us a lopsided view of a much larger picture. We need to see the application, how people live. How do others use magic? Is it used in the open? Is it considered part of life or shunned? Being from another place and time, we have no concept of what we should expect. I won’t lie, I want a drink, food, and some distractions, it can’t always be pounding away. I’m becoming saturated. I need time to digest what I’ve learned. I agree we need more study, but there are too many things we aren’t learning that are equally important. I can't practice any of my rogue abilities without people or things around.”
Devon nodded, “I can see your point. It would suck to find out magic is banned and then walk in, use it, and end up getting our heads cut off. Okay, how about this. Let’s give it a few more days and then take a short trip and see where we are then.”