She was still sleeping off the attack when I arrived. Tulia is normally an attractive young lady. Her face was soft curves and thin lips. She had high cheekbones, and always managed to show off bit of a blush. She had the most killer dimples, and knew how to use them. Her eyes were icy blue and deep. Many a lad had been trapped in those eyes. Her neck was thin and longer than normal, or at least it appeared so. Perhaps because she was below average in height. She sported an hourglass figure that you could see from a distance. All in all, Tulia was lovely.
Now, she was sporting bruises from her left check and forehead. Her arms and legs were full of welts and her left eye was half closed from swelling. None of this seemed to diminish the smoothness of her skin, nor dampen the deepness of her eyes. I could tell because she just opened them and, upon seeing me, started smiling.
“I see you haven’t left yet.”
I sighed. “How could I, knowing you were here?”
“Nan, I’m sure you have more important things to be doing than checking up on a friend. Aren’t you a journeyman now? Isn’t there magicians business?”
I shrugged. “Taking care of friends always takes precedence. You know me.”
She smiled and took hold of my hand. “Well, I’m glad you’re here. The goddess has been good to me. How did you find me?”
“I found a bit of your clothing where you were ambushed. I was able to use it find you.” An impish grin took over my features as I stated “Who else wears a cobalt dress?”
“Who else has cobalt eyes in this town? I swear, it’s like I’m not from around here.” She paused, thoughtfull for a momemnt. “Nan, what did you do to the goblins?”
“eh? I just put up a shield around the two of us. My friends took care of them.” I strecthed the truth a bit to try to avoid the argument I knew was coming.
Her shoulders squared and she gave me a firm look. “Nan D’Brett, I know when you’re lieing to me. I’m also more sensitive to magik than before, thanks to the goddess. When we were in that shield, I know you did something to the goblins, I felt it. What was it?”
I sighed. Well, no sense in avoiding it. “It was a mere illusion. I returned the trauma they visited upon you and your sisters. Most of them couldn’t take it.” At this point I tried a pre-emptive strike. “It was right, Tulia. They deserved to be punished for the pain they caused you and your sisters. We found four dead sisters and they were caught in the act of torturing you. Would you rather me have left you for dead?”
She tilted her head down and levelled me a look that could have wilted flowers. “And who are you to decide their fate? Who are you to decide they are so far past redemption they need execution? Are you know the judge, jury and exeuctioner for all life? Are we all not judged at death for our deeds?”
I withered. “Tulia, do you really think you could ‘redeem’ those goblins? They were so far gone, they were attacking sisters.”
Her nose lifted in the air a bit as she announced “No one is beyond redemption unless you take away their chance. The goddess offers mercy to all.”
“Tulia, they were attacking you. If I hadn’t stopped them, you might have died! I couldn’t just let them get away with it. They needed to know their actions were not acceptible.” Apparently I was pretty heated a this point, because momma windrider peeked her head in to check up on us. She gave me a withering look that said, with no words necessary, “You let her sleep. She’s not in any condition for an argument.” Yeah, I hear you Ms. Windrider. Tell that to Tulia, not me.
“Nan, it’s the action we take that define us, not the actions of others. You can’t fight violence with violence.”
“I was fighting injustice. They were attacking defenseless sisters. I brought justice to their injustice. What were you fighting out there? Freedom?”
Tulia sighed, and leveled a sympathetic look at me. “Nan, you can’t bring justice through violence. I fight suffering, Nan. It’s the only thing I know which is truly evil, and there are many ways to cause it. You know I fight it. What you did brought suffering on those misguided goblins.”
“Tulia, those misguiding goblins almost killed you! I dunno what I would have done if….” I stopped her, turning away. Linea’s house had all those herbs, and I think perhaps I must have been allergic to one, because I had to wipe a tear from my eye.
Tulia smiled a sad smile and took my hand again. “Nan, I know you care. I just don’t want you to become a monster for my sake. Can you promise you won’t cause more suffering on my behalf?”
I turned back and looked into those cobalt eyes. Time froze for a moment or two.
“I promise to always protect you, no matter what it takes.”
Her eyes, so full of life, dropped in dissappointment. “That’s not what I asked, Nan”.
“I know, but it’s all I can give. You fight suffering and I’ll fight injustice. I know you question me, but I promise I won’t become a monster. I know what I’m doing. I have to run now, Tulia. There’s this artifact we found, you see…” That’s when I described to Tulia what I’d been doing in Guilfort, the path of iron, all of it. As I described my efforts to help our hometown, that warm smile returned to her face, the one I was so found of.
After a few more questions, I told her to get her rest and that the Plague would be leaving with me in the morning. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and then walked out of the room.
It’s amazing how some friends can rattle you. Tulia has some good points. I think my use of black magic had shaken me this time, as I was feeling a bit off. I filed the thought away to investigate when I had more time. For now, I needed to prepare to leave.