Part 1937 – Justice Or Mercy?

Jeff clenched his fists and walked over to the groveling half-fey.

I should kick him. Pull him up to his feet and beat him bloody.

He deserves it.

If I show him any mercy, he’ll turn around and use it against me. He’ll hurt me and the ones I love.

“Stand up.”

LM obeyed, but he kept his body pulled forward and his head bowed.

Jeff took note of his submissive posturing.

He’s expecting a good pounding. So, I should just let him have it.

But.

If I start punching him, how will I ever stop?

“I am a hunter.” Jeff said it softly to himself. “A hunter is not a machete. A hunter must know when to show mercy and be willing to show it.”

A handful of LM’s wing feathers fell to the floor.

Jeff uncurled his fists. “I am not a machete. I am not going to pummel you.”

LM raised his head.

“You deserve it. You betrayed me and those I love. I’m not going to hit you. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust you again.”

“I don’t expect you to.” He turned and started to walk away.

“Hey! Fey! I’m not done yet. Get back here!”

LM obeyed.

“Where are you going? Back to Carthage?”

LM shook his head. “He lied to me. I can’t forgive him for that. I can’t trust him again.”

“So, where are you going?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think it really matters.”

Jeff fell back into silence as he contemplated the half-fey.

What is justice? Justice is making him pay for what he allowed. He wasn’t the one holding the stake. He wasn’t the one rushing at me, trying to kill me. But he enabled Carthage. He led the way to me, to Tessa. Justice would be pushing him aside and telling him that I don’t care what happens to him. Justice would be punching him until he cries.

What is mercy? Mercy is looking at him and seeing his fears and regrets. Mercy is giving him a chance to start over again, to prove his worth. Mercy is understanding that he expects me to be a monster and refusing to be that monster. I don’t know who’s hurt him to make him the way he is. Mercy is choosing to not be that person.

So, what should I choose? Justice or mercy? What is right? Which one is wrong? Would I be a fool to show him mercy? Wouldn’t it be better to show him that he can’t mess around with the ones I love? Shouldn’t I show him that I will fight fire with fire, pain with pain, injury with injury?

But is that really justice?

Or is that revenge?

What is right?

What is wrong?

Which one should I choose? Either one will have consequences. Maybe the consequences will be the same. Maybe he’ll betray me no matter what I say or do.

So, then. What should I do?

“Are you a liar, fey?”

“No.”

“Can I believe you? Can I ever trust you again?”

“I don’t know.”

Jeff frowned. “I don’t think you understood my question. I said, can I believe you?”

LM tilted his head. “I. I don’t…”

“Can I trust you? Should I trust you? My instincts are telling me that you’ll just betray me again and again—”

LM quickly shook his head.

“—-if I do. You’ll stab me in the back and help that Carthage buggard steal my daughter.”

“No!” His wings rustled aggressively. “I will never go back to him. I will never help him again. He didn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth about his plans. I don’t know why. I don’t know how I failed his trust. All I do know is he lied to me. He played me for a fool.”

“How do I know you aren’t playing me for a merciful idiot?”

“Because I know you are not merciful. I’m honestly not sure why you called me back here. I don’t know why you didn’t let me walk away.”

Jeff did some serious soul-searching before replying, “I can be hard and seemingly ruthless, but I am not unmerciful. I will show mercy to those I feel deserve it.”

LM lowered his gaze.

“If I show you mercy, will I regret it?”

The half-fey shook his head. “I will not betray you again. I will give you my full loyalty.”

Jeff gave him a long, searching look.

LM raised his gaze. “And that is the truth. Whether you believe me or not, I speak the truth.”

“I believe you.” Jeff held out his hand.

LM hesitated before taking it.

Jeff’s expression softened. “I do believe you.”

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