An elf of God
“Prepare him,” the old priest said, waving a hand lazily, or disgustedly, at the heretic. “I will return for the ritual soon.” Without further explanation, the old orc stumped out.
I nodded, unseen, to his back and turned to my two partners. We all looked at each other’s faces and saw the resolve we needed. I no longer thought of them by name – I no longer thought of myself by name. We were not individuals, undermined by weakness, greed, and shortsightedness. We were the instruments of His will.
We turned to face the pillar, and the heretic who was chained to it. He looked pale and frightened. Elves usually do. I allowed myself a small smile as we approached, good instruments should enjoy the work they’re put to. She was the newest of us, so she started first. She stepped in and struck the heretic several times with her fists. The familiar meaty cracks sang out, surprisingly loud in the quiet parking structure. She exhaled as she punched, and when her breath was out she stepped back, inhaling. He stepped up on the heretic’s other side, middle in the order, and added his own version of her performance. When he stepped back I stepped forward, directly facing the heretic, and hammered the frail elven torso before stepping back and letting her back in.
We went on like that through three or four cycles, working together as any forbidden human machine, lost in the rhythm of our task. Eventually I brought myself back to full alertness. We were not to kill the heretic, and though we were being careful to spread our beating out as much as possible, we’d probably broken some ribs by now. I stayed back and surveyed the heretic’s pale torso. I was gratified to see blood smeared on its pale flesh, but there wasn’t enough. I looked closer and saw that the flesh wasn’t discolored or broken. The blood wasn’t even the heretic’s. I looked at my fists, saw my cracked knuckles, and knew the impossible truth: we hadn’t hurt the heretic at all, we were only breaking our fists on its scrawny elven frame.
My partners, thrown out of their rhythm by my failure to resume the beating, stepped back and examined their work. They snarled as they came to the same realizations I had. She stomped off, determined or disgusted, I couldn’t tell. He yelled a wordless, guttural cry and kicked the heretic as hard as he could manage in its side. This time our efforts were rewarded with a small break in the heretic’s skin, and a trickle of its blood. It could be hurt, after all!
My joy was short-lived. Even as he recovered his balance to strike again, the cut in the heretic’s flesh closed before my eyes. Furious, I looked into the heretic’s eyes for the first time as his torturer. It stared back at my cruelly, holding back silent laughter. I was about to rip its gag out and demand an explanation, but something slammed into the heretic’s head with a sharp crack and our eye contact was broken. I looked to my left and saw her standing with a ragged piece of wood, ripped from an old chair somewhere. She grinned and pointed – her blow had split the heretic’s skin, and it wasn’t healing noticeably. “We don’t have to hold back for fear of killing him. Let’s enjoy this.”
She was right. Soon, we were all armed with makeshift clubs, resuming our old rhythm, hitting its joints, its belly, all its most vulnerable spots. Its eyes closed before long, but I could tell it was still aware. The blood-slick clubs rose and fell, rose and fell, and the heretic’s strangled whimpers and mewls were the melody to our percussion.
Finally it was time. I motioned my partners back, stripped the gag from the heretic’s mouth, and jammed the narrow, splintered end of my club into its mouth before it found its traitorous words. I looked at her and handed her my belt knife with my free hand. “Take it.”
She grinned, genuinely delighted. It was unusual to give such an honor to the junior member, but she had proved herself. He moved to help, grabbing its jaw and forehead roughly to keep its mouth wide. I withdrew my club, and she reached in with her left hand, knife poised to strike once she found its tongue.
We had done well.
The above incident was the last piece of inspiration for me to write this.
For several years, my friend Jacob Sewell ran a d20 Modern campaign in which fantasy creatures (elves, orcs, dwarves, etc.) had suddenly appeared all over the world and taken over, aided by the mysterious and total failure of human technology. Early in the game, I decided to play a spy, a nonhuman who would infiltrate a cell of human resistance and report back to the nearest overseers, who were in Kansas City.
That isn’t what happened.
His spying career died before he even arrived at his assigned post of Willow Springs (Beloit). It likely died even before he appeared in game, as the meaning of his human cover name, Desiderio Saoirse, was “to desire freedom.” His actual name, Lasairian Viliami, meant something as well, but I’ll get to that.
As incentive for his mission, the ‘governor,’ a medusa named Bessala, turned his wife and son to stone and promised to restore them if he served her – and the Sovereign, the main god of the nonhuman pantheon – well.
As Lasairian made his way to Willow Springs, he became troubled by the question posed in Star Trek V: What does God need with a star ship? He began to wonder what kind of god was the Sovereign that someone using coercion, imprisonment and such could be said to be doing his will?
Those questions, coupled with his lack of ideas on how to report to KC once in the field, ended his spying career before it started. Instead, he joined up with the heroes. Troubled, cut off from his people, he began to sympathize.
Two men then finished off his old life.
When one party member, Kame, was killed, Lasairian asked if he could take up his weapons, a katana and wakizashi. When he did, he discovered the katana was the home of Shiro, a samurai ancestor of Kame’s. Shiro was nonplussed to be wielded by a spy and said as much, calling Lasairian an honorless dog. He was unmoved by Lasairian’s argument that he was trying to save his family; he was a spy, and trying to save them that way was, well, dishonorable. The thought of betraying his powerless family stung, and after more debate, Lasairian convinced Shiro to teach him bushido and kenjutsu.
Shiro was only the second of a one-two punch. The first was Stan Siefert, pastor of the Willow Springs First United Methodist Church, who paid a visit to Lasairian in his hospital while the latter was recovering from injuries suffered in the battle that killed Kame. When it became apparent that Lasairian had no idea of what a Christian was or who God was, Stan patiently explained that a Christian is someone who believes in the divinity of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus, who came to die for our sins through the Crucifixion because of God’s love.
(Aside: Reviewing my notes, I see that Lasairian asked Stan was crucifixion was, but didn’t get an answer.)
A loving God, one who loved and accepted all… That was rather different than the Sovereign.
Lasairian gave himself over with an abandon born of desperation and was surprised to find a home, though he remained pressured both inside and out to reveal his true self. In Concordia, his problem was solved, as his magical disguise shattered in front of a large crowd. Less than a day later he was dead, slain by a kolyarut (a mechanical creature that enforces contracts) for breaking his vow to serve and worship the Sovereign. Divine intervention, the willing sacrifice of Shiro and a risky move by a party member brought him back to life.
No one was that upset to find a spy in their midst, or that their new friend had been lying all this time. (It helped that he had never sent back even a smidgen of information back to KC, though.)
Thankful for and inspired by all he’d experienced, he decided he would do what he could to end of the war of the races and bring everyone together in peace. Shortly after returning to Willow Springs, he opened a combination martial arts/meditation center. This place, eventually referred to as just “the dojo,” had a third purpose as a place for nonhumans to learn about God and how to live with humans as equals and friends. Thus was created Estela.
Estela is a Grey Company word meaning hope. Name and purpose were one.
The path of righteousness is often treacherous, and his was more so, ultimately leading to his Kansas City crucifixion. The punishment for heretics was the removal of the victim’s eyes, ears and tongue, the logic being that since the heretic had not seen/heard/spoken the truth, he or she evidently didn’t need those anymore.
He knew, and went anyway.
He wrote, preached in the streets, visited and traveled extensively, and continued to adventure with his human friends, about whom he was becoming more concerned. My friends and I, speaking as our characters, had a few involved arguments regarding nonviolence and ways of dealing with enemies. Nonviolence, as proposed by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., was a path he tried to follow, and he argued for peaceful negotiations and forgiveness when he could. Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t comfortably allow for nonviolent characters. The 3.5 edition Book of Exalted Deeds states that the game is essentially “Kill the bad guy, take their stuff.” But he did what he could.
In a dramatic statement of his trust in God and desire for peace, Lasairian gave up his possessions and weapons and took up a plain robe and wooden sword (a bokken). For this he was rewarded with greater strength in both body and soul. This served him well a short time later when he learned that his memories were fake, that his wife and son – for whom he’d risked everything – weren’t real.
Bit of a shock, that.
Four words from Stan – “forge a new history” – prayer and support from his friends helped him regain his footing, and with renewed purpose he continued to travel, witnessing and spreading the Word of peace. His travels brought him both friends and life-threatening situations.
Some of the friends he made were Duerra Aginstone, a clanless dwarf servant of an established clan, and Matthew, a former preacher manipulated by evil men into doing terrible things. Others were led to him by visions: Earthspeaker the goliath, Joe Camel the bugbear and Toko the goblin, for instance. Some of the situations he found himself in including nearly losing his left hand and being hung.
Sometimes Triel helped with these adventures. Triel was a drow (an evil, dark-skinned race of elves who live underground and hate everyone, including themselves) who had left her home because she failed a mission, thanks to the party. She tracked Lasairian home and over time they fell in love, a union that aided his claim that the races could live together. In the game epilogue, they married and had a daughter, Leitha, which simply means ‘freedom’.
(Aside: Someone has said that there are more renegade drow than normal ones. Such renegades are popular, such as Drizzt Do’Urden by R. A. Salvatore. Perhaps part of the appeal lies in the idea that someone from a society formed on evil and hatred could break away and live their own life? That and they’re crazy powerful.)
Despite having every reason to stay at home, he kept on his travels, determined to speak to all he could. Finally he went to Kansas City, though not with a light and hopeful heart.
Nearly a year earlier, the party had staged a raid with the intent to kill Bessala. Chlorine gas was used. Lasairian had argued against the gas but did nothing to prevent its use. Instead, he had worn a mask like the others and had said nothing more once the matter was decided. Dozens of people inside Bessala’s compound had died horrible deaths.
Knowing another raid was being considered, he went to Kansas City in secret to both witness and warn about the attack, driven by heartache and guilt to save anyone he could. After only a few days, he and his sympathetic host were ratted out and given over to the city guard. Then the awfulness that started this chapter happened, complete with nails being driven through his hands and feet. The party, following a vision sent to Duerra, soon rescued him, but he’d been mutilated as well as tortured – his tongue was gone.
I debated with myself for weeks about how my charismatic character would deal with the loss of speech, how he would come to terms with his guilt. I/he finally decided he would follow a line I’ve seen attributed to both St. Francis and St. Augustine: “Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” He would find other ways to speak and move on. Of all things, the song “Not Over” by DAUGHTRY helped, as it expressed what I thought Lasairian was feeling rather well.
A section of lyrics:
My life with you means everything;
So I won’t give up that easily.
I’ll blow it away, blow it away.
Can we make this something good?
Now that I think about it, I don’t think he ever tackled his feelings of guilt. After he recovered from his injuries, he was again swept into the activities of the group, which was rapidly approaching a direct attack on the Sovereign.
The incident in Kansas City made me realize something: Lasairian was braver than me. Everyone like him in real life is braver than me. I’m uncomfortable talking about matters of faith and family and friends. I therefore doubt that I could ever walk up to a complete stranger, much less a hostile one, with the intent to talk about God. He was braver, doing what I want to do: spread the Word, spread peace, make friends.
I loved playing Lasairian, every moment. He was a tremendously fun character and I’ll miss him. He was more than just another RPG character, though; he was a path. Over the course of the game, I read more and thought more about God than I ever had before, coming up with more and more questions and a deeper, more active love and worship of God.
Now the game is over, and I’ve laid aside his character sheet. (Actually, I framed it.) But I won’t forget him. I think God moves in mysterious ways, and I think He used an imaginary elf to bring me closer to Him.
Lasairian Viliami – fiery defender.