The Shaping of Seryth

Chapter 18: The next day he helped escort a wagon full of foodstuffs to Sentinel's Hill. The farmhands expected bandit attacks, but they were instead greeted by guards mounted on horseback. Seryth recognized the insignias of Fordrellon's order on their shields, and he kept his head down, even as he wondered back to Oro's words about a new paladin leader having taken up Seryth's mantle after he had fallen. It seemed whoever it was was serious about turning Westfall around, for the knights offered to see them the rest of the way to Sentinel's Hill.

Sentinel’s Hill was also beset by famine, though one wouldn’t think so by the orderly way the farmhands passed out the food to patiently waiting transients.

Seryth also learned that his thugs were still active in some parts of the country. Steeling himself, Seryth took his leave of the Saldeans and went to investigate.

The thugs kept camps in the hills, interspersed with gnolls. Seryth hesitated before attacking them, remembering back to similar slaughters of gnolls in which he had lost himself to the killing and rage.

Perhaps this was a test, then, of if he was truly ready to face his past.

Seryth cautiously began picking the bandits off one by one, as they left the camps to relieve themselves or stretch their legs, over the course of several days. Soon they were too terrified to venture out, fortifying their positions, and that was when Seryth approached them in the open.

On a whim of curiosity, he let down his disguise. Some of the thugs recognized him, and came out to greet him. One even began to genuflect, as Seryth had once required.

He watched it all impassively.

“If I told you to leave and never return to this place, would you do it?” he asked the bandits.

There was an instant chorus of yes, but Seryth saw doubt in some of their eyes. He approached the most obvious questioner. “How about you?” he pressed.

The man gave in, fearfully spluttering that he would do whatever Seryth ordered him to do, and he begged Seryth to not kill him.

He had seen this play out many times before while the Nathssysn had dominion over his soul. He could keep some of these men chained with fear, lure a few with greed, and others he would have to sacrifice in case their courage became contagious. One or two he might have to play elaborate tricks on, bending their logical minds to see things his way with false information and a dose of rationale-blotting emotion.

He didn’t have the stomach for any of it anymore.

It was an odd kind of deja vu, as he reversed course, talking the fearful ones into courage with mind tricks, rewarding the courageous, and, finally, sacrificing the greedy.

He was surprised when these murders were what set the rest of them off. They rallied and attacked him. His fire spells burned clean for the first time since he had started his journeys, and he only felt a cool determination, not even a satisfaction or an anger, as he destroyed the bandits.

He set their tents and fortifications on fire so that the farmers of Westfall would see the columns of smoke and come to investigate. He decided he himself should be long gone before they arrived. He fled in the direction of Duskwood, feeling he had passed the test.

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