The wages for good deeds is grief, Stranger thought, as he stood in the sand by the grave of the boy he had rescued. But before then, there had been so much of joy. Perhaps, he thought, you can never have one without the other.
The wages of evil deeds had another currency, which was all too often, and too easily, confused with justice. Retribution was its name, and Stranger knew from experience that it would bring him nothing of comfort, or of peace. It would bring him nothing but more nights twisting around in his sheets, as blood-drenched dreams stole away with his hours of rest, and as he was forced to face again the knowledge that once more, he had put his honor aside to serve as an instrument of vengeance.
His father would be so proud.
But nevertheless, there was a debt to be paid this day, and that debt would be paid, as such debts always were, in the blood of the guilty.
Later, they would say that when Stranger walked into Colony Five that day, he was the last man ever to do so. When he walked out two days later, he came from a blasted ruin, and to speak its name – so it was immediately said among those of the population he had allowed to leave there alive – was a curse on your entire descendant line. The name of the town was consequently forgotten, and is known to the afterworld only as Colony Five, counted outward from the city of Hahn. As someone who grew up in that place, I can say that for it to remain forgotten is no great loss to anyone except those whose bodies lie buried in its ruins, and for them I feel no great compassion.
As for what happened to those that survived, the Mixers and Sixers who escaped that accursed town went on to set up a new colony, high in the mountains, where even the Rulers of the great, human Cities would have trouble pursuing them. The leaders were Hopeful and Warlike, and for years to come, the mountain passes surrounding the new town became known as a safe way of passage for travelers and caravans alike. Slavers and bandits avoided the way through the mountains, believing it haunted by a vengeful spirit with the desert demons at its beck and call.
Thus, it must be believed, many an innocent traveler was spared the fate of encountering such men, and losing their freedom, their fortunes and their lives. And while the sand swallowed the remnants of Colony Five, and the lonely grave marker on the hill, the name of the boy Stranger rescued lived on, as the small mountain town grew into the first, truly free Mixer City, and became known as the City of Avenged.