Geas, A Judge's Tale, part one: Dishonored and Disowned I’m trying to remember how I got here, how I wound up at this pivotal moment. It isn’t that I’ve lost any memories, but trying to tease out the lines of pastfate that lead up to this from the rest of my life tends to be difficult. Particularly when the sky is such a sickly yellow, choking with sulfur fumes and heat mirages. I shouldn’t be alive. Were I anyone else, I wouldn’t be. My enemy would have destroyed me easily, would he have even wished to. But for now, I am alive. My family’s blood is strong, and despite my estrangement, I still hold to some of the lineage’s magic. Unfortunately, my brother holds more. It all came to a head three months ago. A year before, I’d gotten myself in some good amount of trouble, caught up with a group who very soon became leveled with a noble and holy quest. Save the world. Not only were we charged with this quest, I managed to get a taboo placed upon me during the course of it, devoting me to work for a particular pantheon of Spirits. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. We won, after all. Defeated the bad guys, came home heroes, did the whole pose for statues and get shiny medals and heaps of money thing. They painted our portraits, fed us at dinners of state, and made sure that any one of us would never need to lift a finger again our whole lives if we so wished. Like I said, normally this wouldn’t be a problem. But it is. You see, I’m the youngest daughter of a very prestigious line of Judges, and there are rules. One of which is that Judges do not ride off to become heroes. We are to remain impartial, distant, and clear minded. And we are certainly not to go off and get sworn to any pantheon whatsoever. So while my friends celebrated, my family gritted their teeth and underwent inquiries by the Judge’s Council and I sweated and worried and fretted and balked at going home. By the time I returned, the manor had a new steward, one who made it clear that he was oh so much more than just a handler of business affairs. He was to observe the family and be certain that no more impairments of judgement or follies of choice were made. I suppose that it could all have been forgotten, swept under the rug, and would have eventually gone away if it weren’t for that damn geas. I do honestly believe I work for the most demanding Spirits in the realms, and they’d had quite enough of my “enjoying” myself since the end of the quest. Thus, they became most vocal as I was dressing for dinner with my family my second night back. I was quickly informed that they had work for me to do and that I was to set out immediately after dinner. It was with many misgivings that I set about packing my bag and preparing it. I knew that this would end badly, but I had little choice in the matter. If I were to fail to carry out my duties, my existence as I knew it would become very unpleasant in short order. It wasn’t that they would harm me, it was that I had been reconfigured in such a way that my life force itself was tuned to their needs and to ignore them was much like ignoring the need to eat or breathe. And so it was that I made my way to the table, and the family endured a very silent meal. As it had been the night before, all eyes were upon me. My mother snuck glances, father glared with disapproval, my sister and brother hurled jabs at me when they bothered to speak at all, and through this entire farce of a dinner, the steward watched, his cold grey gaze somehow locked upon me and yet taking in the entire room. I knew that I had to speak. I owed my family that, no matter how they were acting. “I have to leave after dinner.” There was silence, long and unbroken, but now they were all paying attention. In my time away, I had faced orcs and dragons, demons and festering pits of dead bodies possessed of magical powers, but it had not prepared me for the crushing feeling of the Active disapproval of four judges in my line. It was as though someone has swung a hammer at my chest and stopped a millimeter from impact, but all that force and potential was there, waiting to continue on its deadly course. I winced, then drew a breath before speaking once more. “The Spirits have a job for me, and I must attend to it. I will return in two weeks time if all goes acc-” I can only describe the feeling that hit me as half frozen ooze burrowing into ones pores while one is being hit directly by a rampaging minotaur. I honestly do not remember falling from my chair, but when I awoke, I was lying on the floor, covered in my own sweat. As I tried to sit, my body lit up in pain, each sinew screaming with the aftereffects of Active magic that had forced itself into my body. Normally, another would not be able to hurt a judge so easily. We are natural defenders, very good at keeping out unwanted spells. But this was from four directions at once and they’d played a very dirty trick, using line magic as a back door through my heritage to attack me. Only family could do something so low, but I’d never believed my own would. Tears ran down my cheeks, the salt from them burning already tender skin. I forced myself to my feet, but they were waiting. The steward watched, and I imagined I felt approval at the Judgement being enacted against me. Somewhere in my mind, I knew that my attempt to fulfill the requirements of the geas made me a blood traitor, but I could not reconcile that with the fact that this was my beloved family attacking me. Perhaps that was the reason I didn’t put up a more resilient shield, the reason the second strike left me lying on the floor, body aching to draw in air for a full thirty seconds before it managed a breath. This time, I took my time getting up. It was clear they weren’t out to kill me, and a Judge is forbidden from dealing anything less than a killing blow to an unarmed, prone opponent. This was a rule that had time and again frustrated my traveling partners when we’d been in combat, but one of several I’d held as sacred. Right now, my family’s own adherence to the ancient rules gave me time to catch my breath, though each inhalation burned and scratched like diamond dust. They waited in silence, though I knew better than to think they weren’t communicating with one another. I tried not to let that push me to move faster. As long as I was down, I had the advantage. I made a hard decision, then shielded dishonorably while prone instead of standing before enacting magic. But the magic came hard. It was a hundred times more difficult than it should have been, and more than once I had to force the power through my body. The hits I had taken from my family’s assault had disconnected me from the blood’s source of power. One more strike, and I’d no doubt I would be stripped of all my powers. It was a thorough disowning, denouncement, and banishment. For a moment, I thought it might be a way out. If it were to happen, I’d be unable to fulfill my duties to the Spirits and they would have to let me go. Perhaps then, I could beg the forgiveness of my family and be allowed to at least work as a scullery maid in their home instead of being forced away. But, as quick as the idea had formed, I realized the Spirits would never let me off the hook. I also realized that if my powers and ties to my line were stripped, I would lose resources I would need to survive this next quest. My family might not kill me, but they would certainly leave me to die. Which meant I had no choice. Even with the shield, I knew if I were to stand, they would sever my connection completely, which would end my powers and cut all contact with my ancestors. I couldn’t allow that to happen. Closing my eyes, I focused. The pain was horrendous, screaming through my body and causing me to curl into spasm. And yet, it was nothing compared to the fact that what I was now doing was an act of cowardice so heinous that the only punishment fit for it was death. I vanished. One doesn’t run from a Judge. One especially does not teleport away while prone. To do so is the act of a true coward, and someone who must hold such guilt that they do not trust in the benevolent detachment of the Judiciary to serve them well. Was I a traitor? The thought floated around in my head as I hovered in the in between spaces of the world before suddenly manifesting several feet above the ground in a field somewhere far to the north of my family estates. Needless to say, the fall was not pleasant. For some time, I rested there and watched the frost form on the blades of grass that poked through an early snowfall. By the time I collected myself, stood, and found my way to a spring to wash the taste of Active banishment from my mouth, and stumbled into a small barn to sleep, it was nearly morning. I knew I couldn’t rest long, but my battered and aching body needed time to recover if I was to keep moving. I only hoped that they hadn’t counted on me having enough strength and magic left or the desperation to pull a move like I had. I only hoped it bought me the time to get to safety. As I drifted to sleep, it was with one final realization. No matter if I was now a wanted criminal or not, no matter if just two days earlier, I’d been a national hero, I’d still have to fulfill the demands of the geas. Even if it put me in more danger than I’d ever known before.