I killed an innocent once. It’s funny, the things that never leave you. The ghosts that hover ever present.
I killed him purely by accident. He ran into the road before my horse as I was chasing down a Daedric priest. He was young. Probably ten or eleven summers old, if that. He was frail. The snapping sound when my horse struck him stands out most in my mind.
I remember it more clearly than I remember anything I have ever done. I didn’t stop, I couldn’t. This was the first mission I had ever led. I couldn’t fail for anything. We were down some overgrown trail on the chase. I had been hunting this priest for weeks, and now I had him.
I don’t know what that boy was doing so far from his village. I suppose now I never will. I barely remember catching the priest.
It wasn’t until we rode back that I saw his body. It was broken, though there wasn’t much blood. Not really. Though when you’ve seen Daedric slicks, no quantity of blood shocks you anymore.
It’s funny the things that stick with you. The details you never think to notice.
He had knobby knees. Small thumbs. His face was one massive bruise. Flies already crawled in and along his mouth even though it had only been an hour. I felt sick.
I’ve never felt such shame in my life. My brothers reminded me it was a casualty of war, an unfortunate occurrence, a sacrifice to the greater good of stopping the Daedra. The words felt hollow. I had heard them before. I had said them myself.
Words were empty that day.
The boy’s hair was so lank. Matted. Had it been matted before I ran him down? Or had it shone? His jaw was broken, mouth askew. Flies crawled in and along that broken line, bringing the illusion of motion to an unmoving scene.
I stared at him for a long time. Death is something we all face, and those of us that deal it must live with it intimately. That death, however, is one I have never forgiven myself for. I still see that bruised face, the broken jaw, the knobby knees. I can feel the flies hum past my cheek. I still wonder if he combed his hair that morning. If he was out playing in the woods, and if his mother ever found his broken body.
The death of the innocent is something that the Tetrarch does not stand for, nor does it seek. Our very calling, at its core, is in place to save the innocent. To save the world.
I share this with you because I believe it stands in stark contrast to the crime for which I am exiled. For killing Lystra.
How do I feel about Lystra? How do I feel about killing her when she got between me and her lover? I feel no guilt. There is no shame in the crime I committed to fulfill my mission that day. My conscience proves me innocent, even if my exile says otherwise. She tried to protect a Daedric follower from the Tetrarch. Where is her innocence?
Lystra deserved what she got. I certainly do not deserve what I am getting. This punishment is unjust, and someday I will revisit it upon those who imposed it upon me. I have lived a righteous life, though I certainly am no perfect man. Even the crime I committed was no crime at all, but a political misstep.
I carry that boy’s death with me, and will do so to my own. I give Lystra no second thought except that it is on her account that I am condemned.