Camaraderie is a really remarkable thing. Friendships are forges for dozens of reasons and can be as sturdy as steel or fragile as eggshells. It really comes down to motivations and matching perspectives. Friendships, like romance, bloom at odd times and without warning. Unlike Romance however, friendships that are forged in times of crisis usually last.
It’s an interesting dynamic. Soldiers that fight side by side develop a deep connection to each other. After all is someone was the only reason why you are still alive, you can’t help but feel a bit fond of them. I’m writing this on the eve of Memorial day. While it would be a better topic for Veteran’s Day, it is still very relevant.
There are many soldiers out there that forge a friendship with another that was made possible by the sacrifices of others. How many proud men in our military have friends they have lost and owe everything to them. Losing live places a value on life an friendship is at the core of this value.
Yes the picture above is silly, but it’s relevant. Mercy is a valuable trait in friendship. When two men face each other as enemies sometimes a different sort of friendship is forged. Rivalry can breed a stronger relationship than one based on duty. If you had permission to end the life of another, but didn’t because you valued the content of the contest; that is a fine example of such rivalry. Conflict is a form of sport at the basest form.
When two rivals meet for a second time, excitement boils and both parties push themselves to levels they didn’t know possible. This also allows someone to find purpose in a cause they might not have been enthusiastic about. If times of peace follow, the two opposing sides may from a more standard sort of friendship. Then the competition was simply a trial of making them a better person against a larger threat.
It doesn’t matter if the battle is external or internal; volatile friendship is such a powerful tool for life and storytelling alike.
Black and White.
The tension around the table was palpable. On the north end of the table were men and women wearing flowing white robes. On the south end there were men wearing black robes as black as pitch. Nothing had been said for almost ten minutes. The negotiations were breaking down.
The mountains of Kuthul were a valuable prize for both nations and everything was banking on this moment. The Southrend nation of Gogellas insisted the moutains needed to be delegated to their priests. The mountains were rich with Sulfa, the only known source for hundreds of miles. This material proved extremely toxic to humans, and it was that very reason it was sought. The Gogella used it to sacrifice living souls to their dark gods.
This was naturally frowned upon by the other negotiating party, the Celadiin. They sought the mountainous area for practice of their purification arts. Across the eight continents they were heralded as the finest healers in the world . The cost for this was high of course, as their population was few and lived short tormented lives.
It was the one thing both of them shared in common, they were no strangers to death.
“This is going nowhere.” A gaunt faced boy of sixteen spoke. His cheeks were sunken and his eyes bugged. A veil of death hovered over him, but he wore it like a comfortable blanket. He was the Celadiin’s high healer, Ceera. It was a title granted to only but one in their nation, he wore it with pride.
“Agreed. Your foolish idealism is delaying this peace. ” An equally gaunt man wearing black robes spoke. His eyes were faint red and hidden behind a heavy hood. The light of the conference room visibly bothered him. He was a man of sixty and three, well received by his fellows as the “Meister of a Thousand Deaths”. Each of Gogellas’ sacrifices were hand chosen by him, no less than a dozen men and women died by his hand in some form or another. No less than two of those deaths were actually performed by the blade he had at his hip currently.
“It is not foolish.” The boy leaned forward with calm resolve. “That mountain will save the lives of hundreds of my kin. You simply want it to butcher yours.”
“It is not butchery.” The Meister said without flinching. “Proper securing of that mountain, for its proper purpose will save the lives of tens of thousands of mine. Numerically, there is no argument.”
Ceera leaned back, whispering a small prayer for patience from his lord of Lumen. “I am aware of your claims that your butchery is justified. If you were to turn your eyes upwards instead of downcast, Lumen would…”
“…lead us all to ruin.” The Meister pointed a long thin finger. “Your ‘god’ is little more than a lesser demon. The proof is how it feeds on your flesh like a common scavenger.”
Silent tension bubbled in the air again. It was only a matter of time before blades were drawn.
“Meister.” A standing cloaked figure spoke calmly. It was the High Magician of the Courts. His word carried weight.
“Yes, Loahm?” The older man spoke without tuning his gaze.
“May I offer a suggestion?” Loahm spoke in a smooth tone, devoid of hostility. Despite that there was a sharp aspect of authority to his voice.
“Go on.” The Meister had kept his eyes focused on the boy in front of him.
The High Healer looked surprised by the interruption. His eyes shifted nervously to the Man known as Loahm. He was a force to be reckoned with and was responsible for hundreds of deaths among the Celadin. He had the unique ability to neutralize their healing arts.
“We should share custody of the mountains.” Loahm shrugged. “The feeble of arts of their ‘god’ won’t begin to put a dent in the supply of Sulfa. In fact, it will only strengthen it.”
“Feeble?” A white robed figure opposite of him furrowed her brow. Her voice was haggard and aged, with deep circles under her eyes. Flaxen hair dotted with grey fell upon the shoulders of her robe. Despite the clear protest, she did a fine job of holding her temperance.
“Midaa.” The High Healer sighed. “Pride is a tenet sin.”
“But the High Magician is correct.” Midaa shrugged one shoulder. “This is a simple answer to complex problem. I will voice my complaint with their misrepresentation our patron while commending him for a compromise.”
She turned her gaze to her healer. “There is nothing in the tenets that commends oppression of other’s beliefs.”
“I suppose not.” High Healer Ceera frowned.
The other members of the small council shifted in their seats. Neither side was happy with the arrangement. The war that had raged for three years was effectively based on this clash of belief. Uneasy murmurs filled the room along with the occasional glances to their appropriate champion. There was no doubt that those that had the nerve to speak up were likely the only ones able to.
“There is also a matter of repayment.” Loahm straightened from the wall. He was a tall broad man of forty, and his eyes burned orange like two hot coals. “Light keeper Midaa and I had the honor of crossing blades a year past. Her healing arts saved our alchemist’s life. Without her ‘feeble’ actions we would have been lost to the poison plains of Gurdooth. For all my power I have to knowledge to counter that treacherous terrain.”
He inhaled sharply. “All this after I sucked the life out of her closest friends for nothing more than personal blood lust.”
“Thus is the way of the Light.” Midaa spoke stoically. She was but eighteen, but looked closer to fifty. Amongst her people she was lucky.
“And yet it was a tenet of shadow as well. It was not his time to die.” Loahm nodded. “Brothers.”
The men around him turned to him. Their red eyes cast a glow about the room. “We forget that death is important to our beliefs, but life is as well. Of we do not live, we cannot spread the word of the Dark One. It is to be contained in our land but not in conquest. Their voices, no matter how small, is cast about into the winds to those that fear death rather than embrace it. Turning aside their beliefs is death upon ourselves. Who would come to us for peace if we were close minded conquerors.”
His fellows considered his words. And the Meister folded his hands, closing his typically unblinking eyes in consideration. For their people it was a bold action. It was a sign of trust and comprehension.
“If it is acceptable to the High Healer, we will allow it. The Celadiin will use any part of the mountain they see fit. But let it be known that if they overreach, the wrath of the Dark one will be terrible. This is to strengthen the Sulfa. Not to smite it.”
“That was never our intent High Magician.” Ceera said with calm acknowledgement. “There is no purer corruption than the Sulfa, with it we can conquer all unnatural maladies.”
The High Magician opened his eyes. His red eyes focused on the boy ahead of him. “Then, we have an agreement? This war is over.”
“This war is over.”Ceera said with clear satisfaction. “But if I may… Why is it you insist on slaying innocents…”
“It is not slaying.” Midaa interjected. “I will answer that. The Gogella are guardians of death. They sate that which is insatiable. Their people willingly cast themselves to the Dark Lord so that the rest of man will not suffer. It is not so different as the Celadin. We wound our bodies so others can be healed. We take sickness unto ourselves. Those that are worthy live to see this work done. Those that are not rest in his warm embrace. The Tenets say so.”
She glanced about to her fellows. “They think the same as us, but our lives are short. The Gogella must take this corruption inside of them and endure, risking madness. That is why we must understand. This is why we must be reasonable.”
Her fellows nodded and looked across the table. While they were opposites, they were so very similar. The robes of white and black meant little. It was a similar cause.
At once, everyone in the room stood in unison, and a simple quiet dip of the head said more than a thousand words could otherwise. Peace had come between them, along with something much more valuable.
No matter how evil the other guy may seem, common respect will come when you simply understand that they are still people on the other side of the wars. Transcending that is the epitome of friendship.