Part 136: InterludeInterlude
"How dare he?" she snarls, slamming a gauntleted fist on the table, "How dare he?!"
The patrons around the Mercykiller withdraw, retreating into the press of bodies despite the stuffiness of the air, saturated with sweat and damp exhalations. The packed bar clutches the mass of body heat tight. Now and again a draft blows through shattered windows and open doors, and everyone breathes a little heavier, as if they could drink in the coolness.
Others wipe the sweat from their brows. Not you, however. No, you muse, it's the kind of happy warmth that would put you to sleep... one of those natural, comforting sedatives, like the laziness after a large meal or the melting embrace of a loved one's arms.
Still, you plink down a few coppers for a chilled wine punch. It's odd order on most nights as cold outside as this, but Shara Six-Blades had smiled behind the counter and coyly suggested that patrons buy what they could. The ice is sure to run low soon.
She's making a killing.
Ileron of Sen-Tau cocks his head, eyes flashing with cruel amusement. His lips press tight, as if holding back a stream of scathing words. But all that escapes is a curious,
"Vhailor was a hero. He is a hero," the Mercykiller pounds a spiked gauntlet into the table. Shara Six-Blades raises a disapproving eyebrow at the new gouges, but says nothing. "A bust of him stands proud in the entrance hall of the Prison. Many have made lone crusades into the lawless Outlands so that they might live as he did. No one knew what became of him when he vanished so many years ago, but we always believed he died seeking justice!"
Ileron rolls his head in a disturbing fashion, as if it were dislocated from his neck, "In a manner of speaking, he did."
"Vhailor's quarry fled him! Left him to die only to return and slay him again!"
"I know something of laws, girl," Ileron smiles, "I once held the finest courthouses in the multiverse and the wisest Chief Arbiters served justice in my squares. I have learned much in all my centuries holding them against my breast. Most importantly, that law and justice mean nothing."
"Do not think to debate me on matters of faith either. No, the Nameless One was right. Yes laws are made by men, and thus justice, too, is defined by men. But more than that, law is made by men who have power. Men who have been born to power or been given power by an electorate. Some have been raised to it, or stole it through cunning or force. Some just have the power to... walk away from it all, and leave such petty responsibilities behind." Ileron makes a show of kicking his legs in a small jig. "There is no transcendent wisdom to justice."
"Then why would people seek it? Why do the wronged crave retribution? Why do we nod at seeing the wicked suffer for their crimes?" Her words are rich with conviction, but her two companions shift uncomfortably in their rust-brown armor. You can see the doubt smoldering in their eyes, the threat of apostasy gripping their throats.
"Clearly because you are sadists."
"You are an abomination! I should bring retribution upon you now, and deliver you to the Powers you have fled from!"
Ileron's cold smile deepens, "It is the right of all beings to seek freedom, girl. You would bring me to justice, but at the price of murdering me and sending me to be enslaved once again. This is the inherent contradiction in you Mercykillers, that you commit such atrocious crimes to punish other atrocious crimes. The winged serpent you wear as an emblem is eating its own tail."
"Our cause transcends such petty concerns. It is the law itself that grants the power to execute criminals." She places a hand on the hilt of her blade, and Ileron has only to raise a hand to stop her.
"As I've said before you so rudely interrupted, justice stems from power. It becomes obvious then that just as there are many forms of power, there are many forms of justice. And I'm quite sure you've heard of mob justice."
The unnamed Mercykiller looks around her, at the unsheathed daggers and scarred fists, the brass knuckles that have been slipped on and the fingers traced through the air, leaving burning sparks of readied magic.
"A story..." she murmurs in an icy fury, "You condemn yourselves over a piking story."
"Go on then. I'm sure you can see you're no no longer welcome here," Ileron gives her a mocking wave.
The three shoulder aside the bar patrons on their way to the door, armor spikes narrowly missing quite a few eyes.
Ileron taps his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm. She could prove to be quite troublesome."
"Have no worry, troublemaker," Shara says, passing out more cold beverages. "The Red Death has no jurisdiction over arrests in Sigil, only the Harmonium can do that. And I have bribed enough hardheads to know that they lack the single-mindedness of their twin bretheren."
"Hmm. I suppose even if that fails I could claim to bear diplomatic immunity. I am the last legitimate representative of a the Prime World of Sen-Tau, after all."
"I was thinking of protecting my patrons, you idiot."
Ileron blinks, looking back to the crowd, "Oh yes. Well, I'll just continue then."
"That would be my recommendation."