Kingmaker

Letters on the Founding of the Ecclesiarchy #2 – by Katya Rastilov, High Priestess of Ursandova

The Choices to be Made

I feel that I’ve come across something of an epiphany—one that’s important enough to include in these letters such that it will be passed to others who may someday fill my role as the high priestess of Ursandova. It is a simple thing really, something that seems obvious upon reflection. It is simply this: There is no one right way to do things.

I say this was an epiphany because I did not expect it to be true. All my life I’ve been taught that there is one ‘right’ solution to each problem we must face, and that only careful introspection will allow us to find that right choice. If this is true, if there is but one ‘correct’ path, then finding it must simply be a question of careful consideration of the alternatives.

My father served to teach me this lesson through his example. Never did I see him act rashly or without forethought—he always acted only with careful consideration and long deliberation. Because of this, the choices he made were always—as far as I could tell—the right ones in every respect. As I journeyed away from home, I expected that it would be the same for me.

But the world has stubbornly resisted my expectations for it. While I have acted as wisely as I feel I can, I am aware now that the world is far more complex than I gave it credit for. To say that there is one ‘right’ answer or one ‘true’ path would be like saying that there is one way to paint a picture or one way to fall in love. Reality is complex, convoluted, and troublesome. Even when we act in accordance with all we know to be right, we may still find regret and unexpected consequences. Even the most righteous path among many will not be perfect.

My closest experience with this has been with the man-child Auchs. Auchs was in service to banditry when I found him. Though he was but a child in mind, in body he was very large and very dangerous. I convinced him that I was no threat to him, and in so doing found him bonded to me. This is where my difficulties began.

My heart told me that even someone like Auchs could be reformed. He was evil, yes, but it was an evil born out of ignorance and mistreatment, not of some fundamental defect of the soul. With time and patience, I knew I could bring him to see the light, perhaps not of Erastil, but at least to understand that there is more to life than cruelty and suffering.

The difficulty then was the weight of my duties. Watching Auchs was a full-time job—leaving him alone for even minutes could expose others to danger. He made it clear to me that he thought nothing of snapping necks or crushing small animals for fun. Other lives were but toys for his amusement, or worse, obstacles to be destroyed. This meant that where I went, Auchs had to follow. And while I did my best to mother him, the burden of his reformation came to wear at me. I knew the situation could not go on forever. I had to find another solution—either to give up my position of responsibility, or give up Auchs.

From the start, Sasha was against letting Auchs live. Sasha did not see a boy who had been turned to evil, he saw a man who had chosen evil. In many ways, he was right—on a fundamental level Auchs was responsible for the person he had become. There was always a choice in what alignment he would choose, even if the choice was biased by the environment that raised him.

When my crisis with Auchs came to a head, Sasha’s direction to me was unambiguous. I was responsible for him, and so I must choose his fate. He had suggested before that Auchs was like a sick animal, that putting him down was the only merciful alternative. He did not suggest this out of cruelty or spite—such an act was a kindness in his eyes. And this is where my epiphany was born.

My brother was right about Auchs, but so was I. The choice was then not between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, but between moral equals. There was no one ‘right’ way to respond to the decision. There were only actions, consequences, and the burden of living with them.

Let me be clear, this is not a case of moral equivalism. I would not say that the outcomes of all choices are of equal ethical worth, such a statement would be madness given the pain and suffering I have seen already. No, what I am saying is that good men can disagree and not be wrong for doing so. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they are wrong. For some—myself included—this is a hard lesson to accept.

In the end, I was able to find a third path for dear Auchs. He is now in the care of Akiros and the others at the Temple of Erastil. Akiros has taken on Auchs’s reformation on my request. This is not how Sasha or Eoghan would have wanted it, but they have chosen to accept my decision. Perhaps they found the truth of my epiphany long ago.

As I write this, there are other arguments before the Baronial council. When they think no one is there to hear them, Lem and Sasha fight like tigers over the composition of our new Kingdom. Lem argues tirelessly for elections and freedom while Sasha stands firm for an architecture of stability and security. They are both right, in their own ways. While I will side with my brother in this matter, I find that I do not think less of Lem for his disagreement. Perhaps in another world, I would stand beside him instead.

Now, as the Ecclesiarchial council assembles for the first time, I ruminate on what I have learned. I am sure there will be disagreements between my councilors as we consider the spiritual health of our nation, perhaps some more heated than others. But with wisdom, patience, and grace, perhaps I can make them see as I do.

There are as many ways to do good in this world as there are good-hearted people to do it. This is a lesson that warms my heart, and prepares me for the decisions to come.

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