Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Ethics of Flesh and Flame

"It is beyond the pale," I said. "Utterly and completely." Dran and I were sitting in his laboratory (at this point, it was his in all but name) discussing the actions of out mutual friend. I was looking out the window, watching to pillar of fire die down as Dragoneyes returned to our Tower.
"You are too quick to judge," Dran countered. "You don't look far enough into the future."
"He is butchering people. Skinning men alive. Even the monsters of Ochekol'kan don't do that. For the most part."
"He certainly has his reasons."
"No reason could justify what he has done."
"If he succeeds, he will save lives."
"That isn't why he does it."
"What does it matter, what his motivation is?"
"Dragoneyes is using his grand principles as an excuse to murder thousands of people. Thousands of your countrymen, in fact."
"Etorans aren't my countrymen, Amniel. If they had wanted that, they shouldn't have sent my father to live in exile. But their country has nothing to do with this. Dragoneyes is trying to learn the True Name of flesh. With that power, he will be able to heal the sick and wounded, and make the old young again. That justifies whatever cost may be incurred in gaining his power."
"Dran, you don't understand what a human life. They can't be bought and sold in the hope to make a moral profit."
"Consider it this way," Dragoneyes said. I was startled to see him entering the room. He wore a heavy suit of armor, and yet he moved silently and gracefully. "If I had the option of saving a hundred people or a thousand, which would you recommend doing."
"That isn't the same, Dragoneyes. You are using the promise of doing good to justify your desire for power." Perhaps it wasn't wise of me to provoke him like that. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so harsh with someone so powerful. But Dragoneyes did not seem to take offense.
"What else would I do with that power?"
"What else would you do with power? People have been chasing power as long as there have been people. Very few of them have turned around and started using their power for the greater good."
"Haven't you used your power for the greater good."
"I didn't get my power by killing people."
"True. But I don't think I am so different from every other sorcerer. We study the world around us, with the goal of using our powers, for the most part, for the greater good."
"Sorcerers are policed. We are kept in check. No sorcerer is powerful enough to overwhelm the rest. If one goes bad the others will work to mitigate what he can do. Once you have the power you wish, there will be no such restrictions on you. The world will be at your mercy."
"And what reason have I given you to think I will not be merciful," Dragoneyes snapped.
"You kill anyone you think threatens Cassinder. You kill people if you think it will make you more powerful. You can be vindictive, and you known to act before full thinking through the consequences of your actions."
"Amniel, it is you who have not thought through the consequences of my actions." Dragoneyes let us behind.
"I wonder where he is going," Dran said.
"Probably to rest."
"Or to see your sister."

Dragoneyes looked at his hand. He could see beneath the skin. He could see the muscles and tendons, the nerves and the vessels for blood. He could see all that complexity. And, if he stared deep and long, he could see the edges of the True Name of flesh. He didn't need the edges. He needed the meat.
If Dragoneyes were to work his magic on Cassinder, he would need to be certain of his power. He would need to know the True Name of flesh like he knew the True Names of fire and iron. Better than he knew the Names of ice and stone. He would need the utmost precision to stop the spread of poison through her body. Even more delicacy to undo the damage that had already been done, so that she might live to see old age.
That was another question inside the mage's mind. Old age. Should he permit it?
Part of him thought it was natural. That it was what a man or woman was meant to do. To live a full life, to grow old, to die.
But another part of him thought of a world with no aging. Like the elves had enjoyed. Did one elf ever walk up to another and ask why his skin never wrinkled. Did he ever express sadness that he would never lose his teeth and hearing and memory. Did any elf ever express regret that after sixty years they would lose the abilities to walk and see and taste? Somehow, Dragoneyes doubted it. Aging wasn't necessary. Dragoneyes wouldn't allow it. Once he had the power he wanted. The power he needed.

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