“But…but I saved your life,” Mercer said. “That traitor was going to ambush you and murder you before the fool got murdered himself as a patsy of the Lightfaith.”

“And yet, for all that, the people you killed here were men,” the Aul said sorrowfully. “They were born into this world and cared for, since none of us can live to be men without tender care those first years. There were people, at one time if not now, who loved them and wished them the best. And you took that from them.”

“I took from them what they were going to take from you.” Mercer was confused; he’d expected gratitude or stoicism, but not the tears now streaming down the Aul’s face.

“I would gladly have let them have it.”

“I don’t understand!” the courier cried. “People have paid and risked their life for you, and you’d betray them, and all the Aulites, just so some miserable backstabber could get his blood money?”

“I don’t expect you to understand,” Pyfer said, sadly. “The Aulites believe that all is an eternal cycle. Another Aul will be born, even if there is another name to it, even if it takes a thousand years and all we have done is ground into dust. But for those without enlightenment, death and rebirth is an extinction of the self. So much is lost. This is why we have and ever shall be pacifists.”

Mercer was shaking now, angry and sorrowful. “Maybe you need people like me,” he said. “People who can get things done.”

“I think you had better go,” Pyfer replied. “I cannot trod the path you have laid out for yourself, as grateful as I am for your assistance.”

“I’ll…I’ll find some more Aulites,” Mercer said. “I’ll let them know you’re here. They shouldn’t be too far, not if they were expecting to take you to Naix.”

“Do what you will,” the Aul said. He sat down heavily, raising a cloud of dust. “I will be here, meditating, until a solution presents itself or I am killed. Either way, whatever happens, happens.”

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