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Baby Steps - Sam and Cady

   
"Ha." Sam didn't actually seem amused. She wanted to believe that Cady really wanted to know the answer, but most of her didn’t. She remained silent for a while and continued walking. They hadn't even gotten to the real conversation and Samantha realized that she was doing the same thing that she done with Tobias: driving away the other person so she didn't have to say what was really bothering her. Once she’d mentally scolded herself, she decided that she might as well answer the question.

"After the battle in Katar, the remaining commanders basically told me that I was unfit to take orders from and should keep my mouth shut and look pretty for the people. I didn't take that very well and since nobody stood on my side of the argument, I almost left. Later Kaiden did give me his support, but I needed the other commanders to keep everything together, so with a little politicking Kaiden was placed in charge. He was Helm’s chosen before me, he'll listen, and he wasn't trying to turn our people into a band of wandering mercenaries or start another war so it was the logical move.

"I needed a break after the Tobias thing and so with everything going smoothly in Shallon, Johan thought visiting Cold Harbor would be good for me. I couldn't wish myself there, so I walked…well rode there with the Helmenites that you met here.

"It was nice. I've finally had the time to get over some things and realized that there are some that I will never get over. The voices are…what they are."
She shrugged. "There really isn't much to say." That was untrue. There were other things that could be said - places she'd seen and the tree incident which Cady would probably get a kick out of - but she'd already said more than Cady had asked about.

The silence stretched on so long Cady thought Sam wouldn’t answer. When she did though, the sorceress listened, eyes on her sister as they walked. Her ire flared at hearing how Helm’s commanders had treated Sam. Either they didn’t know the position her sister had been tossed into, or they didn’t care to take the time to understand.

With the pack on Sam’s back, draping an arm across the paladin’s shoulders would be a little difficult so Cady reached out and squeezed Sam’s hand. “I’m glad you had that time to work through those things,” she said softly, “and I’m sorry the commanders couldn’t look past their own expectations to find what Helm saw in you.” She wondered where Johan had stood when the commanders started to rake the eighteen year old Chosen over the coals, but decided against asking. The wound still hurt enough without any prodding.

Sam is 19. Sel is 17.
Sam had been focused on walking, not really looking up at Cady through the whole thing, and she still wasn't. Her voice dropped to a strained whisper. "They were only being honest and saying exactly what I was thinking. That is why it hurt so badly and why I worry so much for you." She squeezed the hand back.

Awkward or not, Cady draped an arm across Sam’s shoulders. She could see how parallels between the two situations could be drawn, but it wasn’t the same. The gossip floating around about her was personal in nature as opposed to political, though there were naysayers in that bloc as well. Besides, the sorceress couldn’t see a time where there wouldn’t be someone in her corner (at least, she certainly didn’t want to). For there to be a complete lack of backing, Braiden, Elenna and Roland would all need to be out of the picture in some way, shape or form.

Shaking herself a little, Cady rubbed her hand along Sam’s shoulder. Her sister didn’t need to hear how it was different and how it didn’t apply. “It makes more sense now. I’m sorry you went through that, and I do appreciate you trying to keep the same thing from happening to me.” There were things she could do, now that she thought about it, that could improve how the nobility saw her. “Have you thought about talking with Kaiden about what you could do to change the commanders’ collective minds?”

"I would have to become something I'm not to please them. As you very astutely pointed out 'When you worry about being everything for everyone, you wind up being nothing.' I wasn't prepared for their opposition before because I was never meant to have to stand without Helm's backing. The gods were permanent, far more so than anything else in this existance." Sam shook her head as if it would remove the memories. "It wasn't pretty, but I survived and I think the compromise is the best that could be hoped for. In the future, if push comes to shove, enough of Helm's children will follow me without the commanders. I'd prefer it didn't come to that, but I've prepared myself mentally for the eventuality."

She paused and stretched her shoulders a bit. "Is there anything you'd like to talk about before we get to what I asked you out here for?"

Cady let her arm fall away when Sam stretched, thinking the girl didn’t want it there. It was probably for the best. Sam didn’t want to talk about this any more than Cady wanted to talk about her challenges in Tislen, and that was fair enough, she guessed. Clasping her hands behind her back again, the sorceress shook her head slightly. “Nope.”

"Okay." Sam didn't start walking again. She took a slow breath. "Please let me get this all out before you say anything. Maybe you know everything I'm about to say, or maybe you'll disagree with everything I'm about to say, but I need to say it and I need to know that you understand." She paused until Cady gave her sign.

Sam nodded and tried to speak steadily without letting the words rush out too quickly or sound too harsh. "Cady, there are some things that are wrong. Most, I don't think you'd ever do. You're not a murderer, or a liar, or a thief. Sometimes those things have grey areas…even white areas. Not everything does though.

"I think I made it clear that I don't care what you are: It's what you do that matters. The issue is devil magic. I'm not talking about arcane magic. There are people all over the place who use that and there's nothing wrong with it; I'm talking about what you did in the Pit. You didn't know that you could do that then and you couldn't control it then, but it's not okay to tap into that power again."


She felt herself faltering and took another slow breath. "Devil magic isn't just power that's simply floating out there for the taking. It is death, and pain, and suffering. It's husbands who will never hold their wives again, mothers who will never see their children again, and children whose parents are never coming home. That is what devil magic is. It's not okay, and I can't tolerate it or make excuses just because you're my sister.

"Do you remember in Dravina how someone offered up Sel for sacrifice? It's because she's young and healthy, but mostly pure. They don't want the lives of the old, or the sick, or the corrupt. If they had killed Sel, would you have been able to visit with Asmodeus, or use the power you're linked to knowing what that had cost? But, it isn't Sel. It's Maloria's parents. It's Maloria's husband. Hells, it might even be my family. We have no idea what his disease did in Cold Harbor.

"Knowing what the power is made of, could you still look Maloria in the eyes? Could you still look me in the eyes? More than that, I don't want you to wake up tomorrow, or next week, or a hundred years from now and not like what you see inside of yourself. That is a terrible place to be, and a hard place to come back from.

"I want you to be happy. I really do, but you're not a five year old accepting a stolen toy without understanding what the word stolen means or the difference between right and wrong. The power of devils comes at the price of lives and using it when you know makes you just as culpable as the person holding the sacrificial dagger. You once said, ‘If it's a choice of the whole world suffering or a handful of people in pain, I'd chose the handful of people. Every time. The fewer in pain, the better. ‘ Thousands have died to provide your grandfather's power - maybe hundreds of thousands. You know that. Somewhere inside your heart, you know that.

"When you use that power yourself, you become directly responsible for the loss of life and the ripples of suffering and rage that it caused. Even if you think that you are using it for good, that doesn't make it right. The ends do not always justify the means. I can't be a part of that…"
Sam trailed off. She was struggling toward then end, reciting the words she'd written but never sent so that she wouldn't forget any of it, but they had run out and she was on her own again.

"That man in Katar who tried to kill Johan – his name was Samuel – and he did it because Asmodeus told him to. I condemned him for it. …My people are watching my every move. I'm Helm's last Chosen, the remaining symbol of what held them together, and I don't have the luxury of overlooking and forgiveness can only be given by the wronged. If I start being wishy-washy, then I may as well have told my people to scatter to the winds. I love you, but the responsibility I accepted comes first. I love you, but I really need to know that you understand the position I'm in here."

Cady remained still as Sam spoke, her eyes never leaving the paladin's face. By the end of the speech, her cheeks flushed slightly and ice started to trickle into her veins. Her position? Where was she going with this?

"I know what powers that magic, Sam," she replied, “and I’ve been taking measures against using it. I do still believe the fewer in pain, the better.” No, that wasn’t what bothered her. After everything they had been through together, it was difficult to see Sam as anything other than her little sister. Now she had stepped into the role of Chosen and all of the difficulties associated with it.

Yes, Cady could understand the position Sam was in. The thing that worried the sorceress was not knowing how far the paladin would go in her duties. There was only one way to find out. Inwardly shaking off the icy grip, she said evenly, “What I’d like to know is what you plan to do if it does happen again, even if it’s a mistake.”

Sam had fretted over all the possible reactions Cady could have, and finally having one was a bit of a relief. "I know what it's like to have something inside that shouldn't be let out, and there have been moments where it was stronger than I am. This is about choosing. You're going to be tempted in the months to come and before you make that choice, I want you to know the consequences. You've said that I hold my cards too close to my chest, and I don't want you to be surprised because I didn't say anything." She shook her head a little. "But, I'm not planning anything. If that time comes, all I can tell you is that I will do whatever I think is best for Helm's children."

It wasn't an answer. Not really, but it was most likely the closest thing to one Cady was going to get. Letting out a breath, she nodded slowly. "Alright. Consider me informed."




 

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