The Abolethic Sovereignty
The old woman calls you over, as you watch that bitch walk away, the empty crossbow swinging on her back. Nursing your stinging wound, you’re not sure if her insults hurt more than the blow or not. Either way, you have no desire to go after her.
To hell with her, you think as you walk towards the shriveled old woman sitting outside her hut. What did I do to deserve that? And who needs her anyway? The old woman reaches out to you with worn hands, a look of concern on her face. She takes your hand in both of hers, looking deep into your eyes with a compassionate gaze. “I’m so sorry, I saw the whole thing. That wasn’t your fault, but listen – you mustn’t blame her either.”
You look down at the kindly face, your mouth opening to protest, but she just carries on talking as only the elderly can do. “She wasn’t always like this, you see. She was once young and carefree. She lived near my village, with her large family. The whole household – mother, father, sisters and brothers and aunts and cousins and even a withered grandmother – they shared farmland outside the village and worked it together. They all lived in one large house on the estate, and they shared everything. A more loving and happy family you couldn’t find. They were beloved in town for their kind and giving natures. Always ready to lend a hand, or a shoulder, or spare a few coins.” Her face grows dark as she continues. “We think the stranger knew that, somehow. That he could sense their loving nature…and he preyed on it.”
“He came to town one evening in a storm, but no one could take him in. The weather was terrible, and the one public house was already filled to capacity. He asked them for charity, and they gave it to him gladly. He walked from town to their farmstead with her and her brother, and we know that they made it to the farmhouse. After that…” She looks away, her eyes brimming with tears. “We saw the smoke from the fire the next morning, but it was well past too late. We rushed out there, but they were already slaughtered. Or gone in some cases, just missing entirely. Some, we found parts of…”
“Later that afternoon we finally found her alive. Hiding under a pile of her slain kin, blood and skin and horror covering her face. We thought she faked death to escape what happened, though some later claimed she had been left alive on purpose, to witness it all. Some said they saw the power on her then, but it wasn’t until she came back to town a year later that we really saw it.” The old woman looks away again, back down the road towards the subject of her tale.
“When she came back, she had power. A terrible power that had changed her entirely. Love and kindness were gone from her, and in their place hatred, anger, and vengeance had grown. She discovered that she had a gift, a gift fueled by the terrible things that she saw and endured. She abandoned her family name and took the one you know, the one her enemies now know as well. She walks a dark path, and it only leads one way. She’s determined to walk it, though it will leave her alone and unloved the rest of her days. She walks the road to hell, and she will pave it with the victims of her hatred and bile. She decided long ago that love was a trap, and kindness and compassion were merely bait. She is determined to never be trapped again…but at what cost?”
The old woman looks up at you again, and releases your hand. You look down the road towards the rapidly shrinking figure, and the old woman speaks again. “Her only possible recourse is forgiveness. But that’s something she won’t allow herself to have. Nor will she give it to her enemy.” You turn back to speak to the old woman, and are startled to find her gone. The house she sat in front of is empty, and there is no sign of anyone within.