- Markshire PCs:
The great truth that Sun-Ok learned that day in the ice-snake caves actually revealed itself to her later, when she thought about her experience there. Which was really not surprising, since that was her way. And since, of course, with Dram’s departure she experienced a sharp sense of dread. For her last time, visiting the one-eye camp, had been life-taking, and life-changing.
So, she donned her hideous robe and sneaked out past the ice-snakes. She battled the one-eyes above, testing the badges of darkness and finding that they did enable her to sneak up, attack, retreat, and sneak up again. But it was a faint parody of the Serpent way, so she soon resorted to her old methods, bolstered by the luring techniques Dram had shown her.
She quickly overcame her dread of the one-eyes. Over the time since her terrible last visit, she had become more experienced, and had also assembled the proper equipment to fight them—armor and hoods and other gear to absorb and deflect blows, and to lend strength to her own. The one-eyes would land a telling strike on occasion, but not as often as she and Eclipse; still, it was a good thing she had a ready supply of her healing kits.
And shortly after she passed out through the one-eyes’ gate, she sat in the drifting snow and contemplated all she had done and seen that day. She laughed aloud as she realized she was again sheeted in blood, but that this time it was mostly not her own. And that laughter boded well—and her personal hygiene would come promptly—for this time the lesson did not take long in coming. Dram’s derision had been strongest when she suggested that shadows were merely where light was blocked. And that was the great truth he had shown her—that darkness was not light’s absence, but that it had its own existence.
And her mind leapt to where she first used one of his badges, right on the spot where she had a few hours before knocked the one-eye to its knees and slain it. And she thought of the word she had spoken then, the name she had given to Durok’s rapier long before, “Eclipse.” And an image came naturally to her mind, the sun half-covered in creeping darkness. And she thought of the symbol of the Way, half-light and half-dark.
And Sun-Ok realized, right then, that the shadows—and Dram’s shadow in particular—remained an enigma to her because they were the reconciliation between those two opposites, the path between light and dark, the Serpent Way. It was a way she could sense now—thanks to the revelation that darkness existed independent of the light—even if she could not follow it yet.
She stood, invigorated by her discovery, certain that if she studied, and thought, and practiced, it would come easily. She would have to learn to see the ways in which light and darkness were the same, of course, but she brushed that aside excitedly. She had a mentor, she had the aptitude, and—reminded, soberingly, as she looked at the peaks either side of the one-eye gate, of the threats posed her by Markshire’s extremes of Law and Chaos—she had the need.
It did not matter to her, then, that her mentor was not a Serpent from her traditions—she herself might never know what exactly her tradition was. Nor did his eccentricities bother her overly much—she would learn what he could teach, regardless, and if he lacked the knowledge of the Way to understand it properly, she might, possibly, enlighten him. That would depend, obviously—he was human, after all, even if he seemed to keep his art hidden just as the elf-blood Serpents did back home. Nor was she worried that her aptitude was untested, nor that her need might come calling before she was ready.
She was not worried, because she had at long last glimpsed her true Way, and she was giddy with the possibilities. She did not doubt anymore that the Serpent’s Way could be hers in Markshire. And somewhere—deep in a place she rarely visited, a place perhaps she could only ever really discuss with her far-off friend Hon-tae—she knew that it was the only Way she could ever follow home, to the place where she knew her soul had a future.