A note from Selkie


[Oath] was like my own personal safety. Nobody was allowed to be attacked, nobody could be harmed. Unless they were attacking me, or a patient of mine. Then, it wasn’t that I was allowed to do anything needed to protect myself or my patient, no. I was simply allowed to fight the attacker back, with lethal force if needed. However, I couldn’t, for example, blow up a barrel that would kill someone else and the attacker. I couldn’t burn a building filled with people down just to get a half-dozen people who wanted my life.


[Oath] had always only ever allowed me to attack people who it was reasonable to assume were currently, actively trying to cause great immediate physical harm to me.


Back to the gnoll. If he had, say, been trapped in some magical contraption that was moving his limbs, and said movements were trying to hurt me, killing the gnoll wasn’t the answer. He didn’t want to be there anymore than I did. The answer was destroying the magical contraption that was forcing him to move, and it was good to know that I believed that could cause me issues.


I couldn’t just get up and change my beliefs, not without serious discussion and thought as to the why. There needed to be a good reason, a belief that I was serving people better as a result. The sparring was an excellent example of that - I went from “no, hurting people a bit during a spar is harm, and therefore bad” to “This helps them down the line, makes them grow and improve. A few minor bumps, bruises, and cuts now could save their life tomorrow.”


An evolution in my beliefs, changing how I perceived the world, and the rules [Oath] operated under.


I should stick with someone who could protect me from silly situations like that. I glanced at the egg.


Maybe one day. I had the time, after all, I just needed to get to a place safe enough, for long enough. I was totally going to ask Night for a long break once I got back to Remus.

Which came to another aspect of how I saw [Oath]. I couldn’t be the one giving orders, but if someone else was doing the killing? I had few issues standing by. Like the Rangers executing Hesoid. Zero problems there. I didn’t feel the need to step into fights, not unless someone asked me for help or the “fight” was just a slow torture.


The last part wasn’t [Oath] enforced, just how I saw things.


The pirates hadn’t been the same as the gnoll. I had every reason to believe that all of the pirates actively meant me harm. The pirate captain had ordered his troops to murder me, I’d told them how to surrender, or indicate they were out of the fight, and from there, it was reasonable to assume that I was being attacked, and I responded in force.


Even the poor pirate I’d used as a meat shield - he was an attacker at first, and when he became a thick, renewable fleshy shield, he was still an attacker. I was throwing him in front of blades, but that style of attack was legitimate. The only grey area that I wasn’t entirely sure about, was if it was ethical to keep healing him, and keep him alive.


There was something to be said about “Not using my healing to effectively torture someone”, but in the end, he’d been one of the survivors. The fact that I hadn’t been penalized for my actions told me that I believed in life, above all.


Now, helping a torturer? Fuck no. That’d never be me.


That being said, I couldn’t grab random passersby to use as meat shields. There wasn’t too much difference between stabbing someone with a spear, and throwing someone else in the way of a spear. Not when the person in question wasn’t trying to hurt me.


I’d be shocked if anyone with the same baseline [Oath] that I had would think differently.


Which brought up some thought-provoking situations. Some impossible situations as well, ones where I’d get backed into a corner because of [Oath] and had no way to escape.


Invisible bystander in the way of my beams? Even if I had no knowledge of them, accidentally murdering someone was still killing them, the ultimate harm. It sucked, but I doubted I’d find anyone willing to stand in front of me, completely invisible, and let themselves get murdered just so someone else would have a chance at killing me.


Much likelier was someone using an invisible hostage, but then again, an invisible hostage was generally worthless. The point of hostages was deterrence after all. If someone knew exactly what my [Oath] was, but somehow didn’t know about my Radiance magic, maybe they’d try it. Seemed unlikely. My Radiance magic was a lot more public than my [Oath].


Good to know that my protections extended to bystanders I didn’t know about. On one hand, it would be a pain to deal with. On the other, it gave me a certain peace of mind. I knew myself. I knew where I stood, what my values were. I had utter confidence in them, in the rock-solid knowledge that I was right.


The whole scenario seemed ridiculously far-fetched though.


Speaking of hostages. I couldn’t laser through them, but if someone else killed the hostages, that wasn’t on me. Like with the pirates. A solid wall of meat shields could cause me grief, but Radiance had strong pinpoint precision. Any spare leg, any trailing arm, any eyes poking over the side were fair game, and I could confidently blast those.


I shot at a pirate, and they slit the throat of a hostage?


Not my fault.


This was probably an area where I was close to the baseline of [Oath], where other people wouldn’t have the same flexibility and leeway. I only took responsibility for my direct actions. I took no responsibility at all for the actions other people took, or the knock-off effects of my actions.


Healed a serial killer? They strike again the next night?


Not my fault. People were responsible for their own actions.


It was unlikely, but given my lifespan, inevitable that one day I’d have a patient, that over the course of me treating them I’d discover they were committing terrible crimes. That would be a tricky day, with my vow to keep patient information confidential clashing with the need and duty to stop them.


I’d figure that one when I came to it. I had some vague ideas, that if I started exploring now I’d never leave this bath.


One situation I’d covered before - someone who wasn’t currently attacking me, but was about to. [Oath] didn’t demand I be stupid. Someone who was clearly about to attack me was fair game.


How did all this jive with “I will only take up my knife to defend my patient or myself”? My current interpretation seemed to be more of a “Punish people attacking me” or “Stop people attacking me” rather than “Do anything needed to protect myself and my patients.”


At the same time, I could already take extraordinary measures to protect myself and my patients. The way the current fight had shaken out had demonstrated the edges of those measures. The only thing my ethics and morales barred me from doing, related to life and death fights, was seriously harming other people.


Broken bones and below? Yeah, sorry, girl’s gotta live. I could patch them up after.


Oh sure, there were the parts about not charging people to learn medicine, and keeping a patient’s health information confidential. I seriously doubted that those would ever be important in a fight, and for practical purposes, I was thinking about the harm clause, and the edges of it.


Time for some trickier problems.


What could I do about someone who’d been taken over by a shimagu, but was currently restrained and unable to harm me? Could I heal them to death?


Assuming, of course, that I couldn’t talk the shimagu out of the body, or bluff a threat or something.


My instincts sharply veered towards “no”, although I was deeply conflicted on the matter. Like, yes, it could easily be argued that the person who’d been taken prisoner by the shimagu was my patient. The line ‘I will apply all measures that are required to my patients’ demanded that I heal them, that I fix and restore them to full health, necessitating the removal of the shimagu. There was also the line “I will defend the patients under my care from harm and injustice”, and yikes, being held in perpetual slavery was one hell of an injustice.


Flipping it on its head for a moment though.


‘I will not discriminate who I heal based on class, sex, race, what gods they pray to, nor by any other means’ strongly pointed towards treating the shimagu as a patient. They were an intelligent race of creatures, and it was a cruel twist of fate that forced them to be a parasite. I didn’t have all the details, but if I was told that shimagu required a host to live, like most parasites? I’d totally believe it. I should follow up on that thought.


Two patients, strongly linked, and healing one would harm the other.


Well, minor correction.


Healing the shimagu would do almost nothing.


Healing the host would kill the shimagu in cold blood.


‘Healing is my art.


When I was making my class, I’d firmly rejected the notion of reverse healing, of getting skills that perverted my healing into a force of destruction. Healing an intelligent creature to death screamed like a violation of that ideal. Mostly. I was still fully comfortable healing a shimagu to death when attacked.


Where did I come down on healing shimagu who were just going about their business?


I was no great arbiter of justice, in spite of my job. I was no great heroine, in spite of nearly taking [The Rising Dawn] as a class. I was, fundamentally, a healer. What was the healer’s answer to this problem?


When in doubt, medical ethics had strong guidelines.


Beneficence. I should act in the best interest of the patient. This one was generally easy, extra-so since my skills leaned heavily towards helping, with limited ability to harm. The two patients had conflicting best interests though, and I was trying to properly thread the needle here.


Autonomy. A patient had the right to choose their treatment. This was the principle that I, quite frankly, had the least attachment to, and was the weakest of the lot. My healing aura automatically helped heal people, and I’d often blasted my heal with [Wheel of Sun and Moon] with no regard to who was inside of it, their injuries, or if they wanted healing or not. I’d also heal people if I believed it was for the greater good, like in Perinthus, that old man who didn’t want to be healed. I’d healed him anyways, because the greater good of the community outweighed his wishes.


I paid some lip service to the principle. When the one-eyed gnoll hadn’t wanted healing initially, I hadn’t forced the issue. I’d let him go.


Not exactly a great guideline to what the right decision was.


Justice. Allocating scarce resources to where they would do the most good. Important in Perinthus, important in mass casualty events, but the only real impact it had on my life at this point was deciding where I should go on Sentinel missions. I had enough stats and skills to be able to blow through nearly any healing problem, barring being caught in a war or something. This principle didn’t help decide what the right decision was.


Nonmaleficence. I shouldn’t be the cause of harm. Well, this one was pretty clear. Option one was murder. Option two was having someone continue to be imprisoned.


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