Tabin entered his cell alone, carrying a cup. He motioned for the guards to close the door behind him. Caleb looked questioningly at Tabin, then the door, eyebrows raised. Tabin allowed himself a soft, throaty chuckle. "Believe me, you'd be knocked down and tied before you even laid a finger on that door.", he said, tapping the knife at his belt. He sat comfortably on his haunches placing the cup beside him. "Now you listen, hm?". Caleb nodded, eyeing the glass, his mouth as dry as the desert.
"Know this above all else, Caleb Ansfield. Our people do not lie. We treasure honesty and truth above all else.This you must understand. If you do not, then we can go no further." Caleb looked at Tabin, the porcupine's eyes intense, and read the nomad leader's subtle signals. Caleb had noticed whether due to his lack of human contact or a trick of his own senses that he could read people. The subtle, almost innocuous signals they gave off, whether through inflection of voice, or a slight tilt of the head or posture. It was as if they had become open books. Tabin, however, was still rather difficult to read. At that moment all Caleb could parse from the porcupine was fierce pride, and a deep belief in what he was saying. Caleb finally shrugged and nodded, his thirst winning out.
"Very good.". Tabin sighed heavily, shifting his feet a bit before he began. "Our people have been wandering in these lands for as long as our spoken history can recollect. We were a wandering, nomadic people, living off of the bounty of the desert." Caleb allowed himself a small smirk at this. "Ah, yes", said Tabin, noting the coyote's smile. "Bounty." He jabbed a finger at Caleb. "It truly was a bounty for generations and generations. One must only know how, and when to look for the answers, and all that is good shall come to those who respect their part of the earth. We, and many other nomadic bands, would wander far and wide across the desert, moving from oasis to oasis, gathering the few hardy plants, roots, and animals that are this land's gifts to us its children." He gestured broadly with his weathered hands. "It was a fine balance, occasionally small disputes would erupt between clans but we all respected one another, and one another's way of life. More importantly, we respected this land that gave to us the things we needed in order to survive." Here Tabin paused and looked down at his feet, his features intense. "A few generations ago, small settlements, not unlike the one we took you from, began appearing at the edge of our domain. At first we gave it no thought, thinking the desert limitless and its gifts inexhaustible." He raised his gaze and held Caleb's, his eyes intense. "We were foolish, didn't recognize what was happening until it was too late. Water", he gestured at the cup, "is life out here. The oases we ferried between were our lifeblood. First the villages claimed the water. When a few of our kind strode into town to take water, they were chased off like dogs. This..." Tabin jabbed a finger at Caleb's torn, soiled mess of a robe. "Order of yours was assisting in the settlement. The villagers told us that they 'owned' the land, that the well was 'theirs'".
He shook his head, a grim expression on his face. "The gift of the land, for all its children, belonged to these arrogant interlopers. Ridiculous." His voice was slowly rising, his body tensing as he spoke. "Some of us tried again, this time more forcefully. They were killed, the rest driven deeper into the desert. For two generations we've been pushed and pushed to the limits of this place, beyond these cliffs is an endless wasteland of death. Some of our other bands have tried to take things by force, always they have been driven back." He paused again, his body tensing as his eyes once again took in Caleb's tattered, soiled robe. "And always these villagers are receiving help from your precious Order." At this last word he sneered harshly.
Caleb almost spoke then, defending the Order as a force for good and a willing helper to all who asked for assistance, but sensed it would be wiser not to respond, and held his tongue.
Tabin smiled grimly, as if he knew what Caleb was thinking. "The Order has never taken up arms against us, but by supporting and promoting these...invaders, blood is on their hands as well. They may not have held the weapons that did the killing, but they are complicit in taking sides, and in destroying our way of life. You all preach of your high minded ideals, of your goodness. But the truth evades you, and you lift up false gods. This...Magnus was but a MAN! He may have done great things, but he is no God." he said, punctuating the last with an extended finger. Tabin relaxed a little as he looked intently into Caleb's eyes. "I can see that you do not believe. Or are willing to make excuses. We are one of the last bands left. The animals have been driven away, the plants and roots have ceased to grow and most importantly, the water has all been *taken* from us. I had no choice but to fight for the lives of my people. I was pushed to do what I must, and while I do not relish killing, the same does not seem to be evident for the other side." He pushed himself to his feet and sighed heavily. Grabbing the cup, he continued. "I can see you do not believe. It is no matter what you believe what the truth to be, but what the truth actually is. Clarity, this is both the mystery and the gift of the desert." He paused a moment, gazing down at Caleb with an oddly detached expression. He held the cup out for Caleb, still holding his gaze. "One must just be humble enough to allow the message to be heard."
Caleb took the cup, puzzled by Tabin's demeanour, and nodded to the porcupine. He gulped down the water and wiped his mouth with his hand. Tabin watched intently as he finished, a wide, almost feral grin spreading across his face as he took back the cup. "Welcome to the desert, Caleb Ansfield. May your truth be revealed.”
A sweat quickly broke out on Caleb's entire body, his breath coming in pants. He tried to raise a finger and say something to Tabin, but his muscles rebelled, slackening and causing him to slump onto the floor. He thought he saw the cell door open and four nomads step into the cell, each grabbing a limb as he began to involuntarily jerk and spasm violently before he began to feel pulled out of his body. A spinning wind enclosed him, a vortex that closed around him and held him within itself.
He had a vision, was whisked across the desert, he sensed even through time. He saw the nomads generations ago, wandering the desert freely, living off its land. Oases springing up in the scrub ridden sands full of life, fruit trees and swaths of desert lilies, their small, hardy white blooms dotting the borders like a thousand tiny white stars. He saw the villagers claiming these oases, the conflicts between the two peoples growing more violent, finally escalating to bloodshed. He saw the rise of the villages, the Order's hooded acolytes bringing their words and, more importantly, their supplies and support to the villages. He was shown the nomads being driven back, the land and it's flora and fauna dying even as it supported more people. He saw the last, lonely desert lilly tramped down as sandaled feet walked across it obliviously.
The spinning winds carried him back now, to his own life. He watched as a young coyote heard the call, and enrolled in the university. He saw the teaching, the interpretation of the words done for him, given to him to repeat as rote without really searching for the true meaning within. He watched himself working as a brother of the Order, seeing not through his own eyes but the eyes of others as well. He heard the dismissal in the voices of his superiors, watched as again and again whatever small suggestions he made were regarded as a child's artwork, then tossed aside when he left. He saw Reverend Standfast treating him with a kind of indulgent respect, realizing that he had worth but not really believing his value was as high as some others. He watched as a small group of Knights and elders made all of the decisions for themselves and their own, with little regard for those who chose not to believe. He finally watched as he was given this assignment, the Prelate sending him even shaking his head in consternation at the fact that only two of them would be going. He saw Niko being shot again, the life leaving his eyes as Caleb watched helplessly. An anger began to build in Caleb. It was the Order's fault. It was all the doing of a few old spiders spinning their webs, tossing aside the true meaning of Magnus' teachings. The fruit looked so inviting on the outside, but inside the core was a rotting, festering waste. The fury in him grew, blood singing in his ears as Tabin's words came back to him, echoing. “Magnus was but a MAN.”
The layers of his life, of his self, were peeled away. The roar of the wind intensified, the truth seemed to be at the center. His truth.
The Order had lost its way.
It needed a man to lead, a man of action capable of great things to save not just itself, but the entire land it had swore to protect. There was still time, and in that moment he realized he had to fight to save not just these people, nor just his Brothers and Sisters, but all of the Barrens. They were the stewards of the land and of all of the people Magnus gave them, and they had failed in their task. If people can't see reason for the greater good through peaceful means, then it was up to someone to use whatever means were best for the greater good.
That someone is me, he thought, the clarity of the statement ringing true in his core.
The winds swirled even faster, closing in on him. He felt sucked down, down and then was back into his body, limbs tense, with four nomads pinning each down. He drew in a ragged breath and whispered, “Magnus....was... but...a...man...”, before going limp and passing out.
Last edited by Sloth on Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.