Whichever way he turned was another unpalatable concept. Chax was tense, his legs straining to support him, his arm itching to strike something. Inside his mind was a roil of emotion illuminated by sharp strokes of insight.
If it was so obvious that Strasmin and Oistrem might once have had a short period of peace, why was this not common knowledge? There should be Precedence...
There was only mercy. Chax remembered the urging of the Craisht that launched him towards Aun's frail-seeming frame, and the crack of pain that had driven him from his senses and left him tumbling into a ditch. Such a small figure could not be... what the Craisht had told every Oistrem a Strasmin was; a horned, relentless demon of ferocity.
Some Oistrem had no trouble making the connection. They went forth from Susekho to guard the varied paths, and to fight, and if it wasn't an Oistrem and it was headed for Botaram, it didn't much matter whether it had horns; it must be a Strasmin. And Strasmin were to be slain.
Chax must have been quite stupid not to reach the same conclusion... But after the shock of the frenting rod striking his arm and the pain of his fall, there was something else. It was a gesture that seemed to bypass the Craisht, that reached to his nature and not his education. It was the weaponless arm, reaching down to help. Something that showed mercy was not an enemy, and it didn't have horns, so it wasn't a Strasmin, and it didn't much matter which way it was heading.
If Chax had not been sent out alone (Ugh! Why did he have to keep remembering that?) things might have gone differently indeed. Aun would have fallen by the blow of Chax's partner. If Aun himself had not had some similar moment of insight, or stupidity, Chax would now be dead. There were so many ways that things could have gone differently.
But if it could happen once in thousands of cycles—that out of thousands upon thousands of Strasmin and Oistrem slaying each other, two could be so stupidly merciful or mercifully stupid—could it not happen more than once?
And if there had been a short period of actual peace... could there not be one again?
And here Chax found himself at the sharp slicing edge of blasphemy.
Was even Botaram worth so much blood?