Monday, May 5, 2014

Paks--chapter 31--END

Finally, the Duke gets the Honeycat cornered. There's a secret passage leading to the inner bits of the enemy's citadel, and the Duke taps Paks to lead the cohort that's going to sit on the Honeycat's bolt-hole, with the express orders that the Honeycat is to be caught alive. He mentions that the guy has a tattoo on his face, one of the symbols of a dark god.

Paks and the Halvaric commander start poking around to make sure nothing's going to bite them while they're climbing into their enemy's lair. They decide to wait. After a few hours Paks is awakened by her amulet. The Honeycat used magic to knock her unit out. She wakes them and they all surge forward. The Honeycat has a wizard, and Paks figures the wizard has disguised him as a woman in her nightdress.

Then Paks sees movement out of the corner of her eye. An obvious animal. Paks attacks the animal on the logic that a real wild thing wouldn't be anywhere near the battle. She's right, and is now in personal combat with the son of a bitch who killed her friends and fellow veterans. They trade blows for about a minute, and she decides the best way to catch him is drop and grab his knees. Someone else does something--described only as making the Honeycat scream--and he's down, caught and theirs.

The Duke has plans. These plans will not be nice.

The Paladin of Gird realizes that the Duke has these plans, and tells the Duke to kill the Honeycat...but do it simply, cleanly, and get it over with. Do not torture him. The Duke asks if the Paladin isn't aware of what the Honeycat did to his men. The Paladin is, but he's more concerned with doing what is right than what is fair. They argue about it, and the Paladin elects Paks to settle the dispute. It's her friends that died, and she's the one that caught him.

Paks says something absolutely beautiful.

"My Lord, I have not--I cannot--forget those friends. And he had them killed, and hurt--I want him dead, my lord...but we don't--we are not like him. That's why we fought. Afterwards--If it were me, I would kill him now. But I have no right to say." 

 How we punish crime and criminals is goddamn important. Not to prevent crime--that's one aspect of it--but to keep society from damaging itself. An Eye for an Eye just creates this eternal cycle of missing eyes, until everyone is blind. And in many cases the crime in question is not important enough to merit a great deal of retribution. However, when humanity shows its greatest depravity, that's when a merciful code of law and a merciful code of conduct becomes important. Not to protect the criminal from cruel and unusual punishment, but to prevent the morally right from becoming the thing they came to judge. That is why cruel and unusual punishment is a big deal. You cannot cause damage to another person without also causing damage to an important part of yourself. Punishing like with like only justifies the like. Punishing great depravity with a measure of mercy the depraved do not deserve, however, protects the merciful from becoming depraved themselves.

There's something more important than justice, and that is breaking the cycle that requires it. As long as we focus on making sure that everything is fair, we will continue to perpetuate the choices that make that justice necessary. The only solution is to do what is right, even when what is right is not what is just. In other words, my lovelies, it doesn't matter who starts it, or why it was started. The only way it will ever end is if it ends with you.

That is what Paks is saying, in a simple, uneducated way. She understands that the "fair" way to honor her friends would not actually honor her friends. It might give their murderer the ending he deserves, but it would also destroy utterly the company they served and the woman they befriended. These things would technically continue to exist, but they would no longer be things worthy of service and friendship.

And the Duke says "To hell with it. Just kill the bastard."

The death of the murdering son of a bitch gets less than a paragraph and that is exactly the amount he deserved.

Then Paks collapses from a poisoned blade that the Honeycat used in their battle. The paladin heals her, and in questioning her reveals the entire episode involving magic and her medallion. The Paladin asks her if he can see it, and when she does it glows blue for an instant before going out. The Duke and the Halvaric listen to her story, and go retrieve the rest of the magicked men.

The Halvaric leader suggests that both Paks and the power that helped Paks is deserving of gratitude. The Duke shrugs this latter off, because he has issues with Gird. He sends Paks to go tell her cohort that it is finally, finally, finally over.

She does. She describes how the Honeycat died--quick, one stroke to the head--and the reaction is a little mixed. Most of the newer recruits are aghast--how could he die so quickly?--but the real vets are all relieved, and one of them gives a little speech about how proud he is to serve in a company lead by people so strong. Paks doesn't say that the Duke wanted to drink the bastard's blood, practically, and lets the soldiers start spreading the story, both that the Honeycat's dead and that he was given the mercy of an easy death.

They plunder the city. The Honeycat's own gold pays for the campaign.

Finally, the paladin, the High Marshal and the Duke all tell Paks that she's invited to join the High Marshal--or at least the nearest grange--for training and possible candidacy for paladin training. Paks considers this for about three seconds, then decides that she'd rather just re-enlist in the Duke's company and have done with it. The first book in the trilogy ends with Paks returning to her co-hort, in a sort of "Paks's in her regiment an all is right with the world" kind of attitude.

Now, my boys and girls, we shall decide what the next book shall be. We can either do the next Anita Blake book or we can honor the fact that LKH FINALLY got off her ass and finished the next Merry Gentry book and do a book in that series. What's it to ya?

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