An argument. Not the first. Perhaps not the last. The participants are allies against each other, each merely wanting to do the 'right' thing. But what is the right thing? Can anyone truly know? At the end of the day, is the right path doing the thing that's best for you, that's best for the people you care about, or that is best for the planet as a whole? What moral code does one follow to truly be 'right?' Must one be true to a religious text, true to a law, or true to their own self?
The first ally is named Oron. He sits on a stone bench, one of many in the large room. He is clad from neck to toe in armor too masterfully-crafted to be an heirloom. On his back is a large shield, at his hip a long sword. He has a clean, honest face, with piercing blue eyes, and an air of quiet nobility hangs around him, as does the overbearing shadow of sorrow. His once-proud armor is in disrepair, tarnished and ugly. His sword appears to be rusted in permanent rest inside it's sheath. This man is a defender, a guardian, a man that champions the idea of suffering so that others will not have to. But he is broken. He has been defeated, as all men must one day be, and he knows not if he can defend anyone, let alone his ward, any longer.
“You're a fool, Oron,” says one of his allies and opponents, a man pacing perhaps ten feet away. He is tall, and an intimidating sight in his long, black trench coat. His eyes are red, and seem to just barely glow, like the last embers of a dying fire. His wavy black hair is cut relatively short, and his face is adorned with a meticulous goatee. Curved swords are in scabbards strapped to his back, and when he turns, his coat flares out, rendering the pistols at his hips visible.
Oron sits in silence for a moment, staring at the floor. Finally, he shrugs. “I don't see many options left here, Tybalt.”
“I fail to see it as an 'option' at all!” Tybalt spits, the word 'option' thrown from his mouth as if it were something vile and twisted. “It's obvious that you can't be trusted anymore.”
Oron stands, his tattered cape billowing behind him, and on his feet, tarnished armor or no, he cuts quite the imposing figure. “You can trust me to do the right thing, monster, as I have always endeavored to do.”
“You hate him, now. It's obvious to everyone.”
“And who are you to speak of hatred!” Oron roars, his hand grasping the hilt of his sword. He pulls, but cannot free it from the rust imprisoning it.
“It's my job to hate,” Tybalt snarls, and his hands reach over his shoulders, drawing his swords, the blades carving elegant ribbons in the air as he begins to approach the knight. “What is your excuse?”
“Stop!” a voice cries, and Tybalt halts, his head turning to her. With a growl of frustration, he slams his swords back into their sheaths and turns, once more resuming his pacing.
It is easy to tell that Auria was once beautiful, but her beauty has been tainted with the shadow of death looming over her. Her large brown eyes are filled with sorrow, and her short blond hair falls listlessly around her shoulders. She has always been a creature of love, but her love alone can no longer sustain her, as evidenced by her slightly emaciated frame. Her sundress is faded, and her feet are bare. She sits on the floor, her back against the wall, and looks as if she lacks even the energy to stand.
“Killing each other isn't going to solve anything,” she says, her voice soft and pleasing, but then she coughs, a rough, painful sounding thing that seems to carry on for far too long, making Oron wince in sympathy, and causing a flash of sadness to fly over even Tybalt's eyes at the sound.
They both know, after all, that she is the best of all of them.
Silence fell, and Oron takes his place back on the bench, tugging futilely at his sword once more, and, for a long while, nothing is spoken.
“What you're talking about is murder,” Tybalt finally says, the silence breaking abruptly and suddenly.
Oron snorts, then starts laughing. “Incredible,” he finally says, shaking his head. “You want to kill...almost everyone. And this is your big opposition? That it is 'murder'? Really?”
“I never wanted to kill him,” Tybalt responds, his lip curled into a snarl, and his finger punched towards the window, emphasizing his point.
“Besides, it is not murder. Not by any of the standard definitions. Think of it as...euthanasia. People have been euthanized for thousands of years. Most likely will for many thousands more. It is...a noble act, to end one's suffering, when no other escape can be found.”
“Our job is to protect him, Oron. Not kill him.”
A fourth voice enters the fray. “Perhaps in this case, the two are one and the same.”
Barris sits at a table, facing three large books open before him, and many more in stacks beyond them. He wears the robes of a scholar, and half-moon spectacles are perched on his nose. He is by far the oldest in appearance of the group, with a long, flowing beard of silver and deep wrinkles etched into his face. “He is an artist. A tragic one, at that. Historically...those people never end well. Perhaps protecting him, in this case, involves letting him die sooner, rather than later.”
“Perhaps he should fight!”
“That's your answer to everything, Tybalt,” Auria says, her voice tired and weak. “But not every battle can be won by picking up a sword and shedding blood.”
“And what would you have us do, then?” he says, turning to face her, his coat whipping about him dramatically. “What would you have us do, knowing full well that you're in the clutches of death as we speak?!”
She shrugs, and leans her head back to rest against the wall. “Foster hope,” she eventually answers, and sighs. “It's the second most powerful thing in the universe, hope. Overruled only by love.”
“With all due respect, Auria,” Barris says, his voice expressing remorse at what he must say, “One could easily argue that your cultivation of love and hope are what brought this mess about in the first place.”
She lowers her head, and a tear falls from her face, staining her dress. “I know.”
Oron stares at Barris, and shakes his head. “A low blow, scholar.”
“The truth is not always pleasant to hear, knight. But that doesn't make it's validity ring any less soundly. I am as fond of Auria as any of you. But fondness does not change fact.”
“The truth doesn't always need to be spoken. You are as aware of this as I am.”
Tybalt snorts. “So now, we should hide things from each other? You act as if it's even possible. Everyone knows you resent Auria as much as you adore her. Before she entered the battle, you thought you and I had things well under control. But you know as much as I, as much as Auria, and as much as Barris, that he was miserable. It was merely my influence that allowed him to hide it.”
“And now,” Barris says, raising his head from his texts and removing the spectacles from his nose, “he is more miserable than ever before. The hope that he had is dying, and, as much as I loathe admitting it, you're dying along with it, Auria. So...what do we do?”
“I told you,” Oron says, rising to his feet once more. “We put him out of his misery.”
“I admit, I must agree with you, though I daresay for different reasons. And you, Tybalt?”
“This is ridiculous. We can't just let him die. Not like a coward. Not like this.”
“And what would you propose we do in substitution?”
“I don't know, scholar. I just know that this is wrong. And absolutely pathetic, at that.”
“Auria? What say you?”
She coughs again, a horrible sound that echos throughout the room. After perhaps half a minute, the fit passes, and she gasps for breath, before finally panting, “We hope. We yearn for a brighter tomorrow. Maybe that will be enough.”
Oron walks to the window, stares out of it, at the rain pouring from the sky, hurtling towards the ground fifteen stories below, and the edge of the roof less than six feet below. “Hung jury, then,” he muses. “Two for it, two against it. Means it's not our call anymore. It's up to him.”
And on the other side of the window is the eye of a man, standing on a ledge slick with rain. He sighs, glances at the ground so very far below him. There is no fear in his heart, but all the same, he finds himself torn, as if half of him is demanding that he take the final step forward, and half of him is demanding that he not.