Skithis – Conscientious Objector
Before he saw daylight, he knew that a weight had dropped from him. Skithis blinked, and his nictating eyelids were quick to follow, the sudden change in light requiring the lagano to almost reset what he was visualizing.
Gone was the dungeon, the lizard man being brought back to where he was long before he had been lured to the evil place that threatened him and his companions. Gone, too, was one of the companions he had walked through the threshold of the dungeon, through the portal that the Keeper of the Void had summoned.
Kiano, the hulking rhinotaur, had not come through the escape tunnel, and Skithis wondered if he had merely disappeared, or if the other member of their group, the eerie Vya, had found some way to bring him to her realm.
Skithis initially shivered at the thought, but he smiled a toothy grin when he considered that he had certainly bore most of the weight as they walked the fallen rhinotaur toward the exit. Without his support, Kiano’s corpse likely crushed Vya into the ground.
His thoughts of his unexpected allies brought Skithis to two others as well. Benton and Fe’Pavi—two versions of them, anyway—had been his allies in the Living Dungeon, but there on the battlefield, beyond the trees, the lagano knew that they were supposed to be his foes.
But what made them opponents, combatants on the field of battle? Skithis wondered how it could be that they’d found the ability to cooperate in the dungeon, when Kradun, his leader, had tried to cause such violence between them. The lagano understood that the ones who he faced in his world were not the same as those he had aligned with in the depths of the Living Dungeon. While they would not be aware of the uneasy alliance that had been made, Skithis still grunted at the thought of bringing his barbed spear to bear against either the human or the kaja, or even their other allies that they had talked about.
His shoulders sagged at the thought of hurting any of them. The ones in the dungeon had started off as his foes as well and were even ready to come to blows with him. But the dangers of the place had united them, and more than once, one had come to the aid of the other.
As the tents of Skithis’s camp came into sight, he knew that they were not his only allies, however. He saw Wherricks sharpening his halberd, and he knew that Malak and Kuvo were likely completing one of their bizarre rituals in one of the other tents. They needed him as well, though Skithis was not so sure he understood why.
Kradun had a hold on him, and them, it seemed, and had pulled them under one banner, for the better of the odd quest that she found herself on. But how had she managed it, Skithis wondered. It was not unusual, sometimes, for their varying races to find a common foe, or a common desire.
But for the life of him, Skithis could not picture what that was. There was no fear of their enemy. There was no great relic that they tried to get their hands on. There was no land they fought for.
Skithis closed his eyes, imagining that he was in Kradun’s tent. She took a scimitar off the display on her desk, sharpening it with a new whetstone—always a new one. Her eyes, though, didn’t fall to her work, but to the collection of medallions that hung from the clasp of her cloak, resting upon a stand that stood at her height.
The lagano blinked, and then pseudo-blinked with his nictating eyelids, calling his consciousness back to reality. He hummed, drawing back his scaly lips as he did so. A sneer appeared on his face, but he wasn’t even aware that he summoned it.
He marched forward, still playing the part of the soldier, even if the calling’s grasp had weakened, even if he didn’t realize it.
Wherricks caught wind of him, sniffing the air as though the lagano’s scent offended him. He stopped whetting his own weapon, but the sound of Kradun’s scimitar’s taking a stone across its crescent edge continued to reverberate into the air of the camp.
“Thought we’d seen the last of you,” the gnoll growled. “For a time, the mistress said it was like you were gone from this world. I’m not surprised you ran. I am surprised you’re back.”
Skithis was aware of his most recent sneer. “I’m glad I was worthy of your concern.”
Grunting, the gnoll brought his whetstone up to his halberd once more. Before he could strike stone to steel, though, he sniffed again. He knit his brows, focusing on what he detected. “Man, kaja… Is that rhinotaur?”
Leaving him behind in a bout of confusion, Skithis continued on, until he reached the outside of Kradun’s tent. He pulled the flap to the side, and strode in, just missing the leather fabric with his spear.
Kradun never bothered turning to him, instead gazing at him in the reflection of one of her scimitars.
“You’re late,” she said. “We could have hurried across the field and hit them while they slumbered.”
“Are we to claim victory but lose our honor?” Skithis dared to say. As he spoke, he was even surprised to hear the words leave his lips.
“What did you say?” Kradun asked.
The lagano stood a little taller then, tilting his head as he absorbed the thoughts he invoked, still echoing in the quiet of the tent. He bowed then, looked at the woman’s feet when he spoke next.
“If we are to fight Shazra and—”
“Is it ‘if’, now?” Kradun asked. “You are risking a chance to think on your own?”
Any other day, her voice might have made him tremble, but Skithis only grew more rigid, only stood taller. His eyes narrowed, and he stared at her reflection in her weapon.
“If you want to fight, you bring your blades to them,” he said. “But my spear is no longer for sale.”
With renewed confidence, he spun on his heel, sweeping the tent flap out of the way again. He only looked back when he heard Kradun gasp and run to the medallions.
Though he didn’t know what it meant, Skithis hummed to himself as looked down at his palm, gazing at a medallion that no longer remained in Kradun’s tent. It had a likeness to him, although a crack appeared across its surface.
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