Banishment is one of the darkest magicks.
Not always; not invariantly. This is magick, and intention matters. Has an army of the dead been raised up from your fallen soldiery and sent back against you? Those who battled you so recently in life are likely with you in spirit; it’s probably a mercy to send them out of this world and back to the grave.
But usually, there’s a bit more uncertainty involved. Do you wish to try your skill at arms against a notorious lich, powerful in life, angry in undeath? Go to her home, wave the sigils of your Gods in her face, and send her away, if you would (and if you can). But recognize: you, the interloper, have made a being unable to be part of its own croft.
You might say, “But this was a thing steeped in Darkness; we have merely returned it to its element. It fled naturally, unable to face the Divinities we worship.”
Well, I serve Gods so horrifying that even a glimpse of the thing burnt into my chest might set you to panic; if I open my shirt and abjure you, in its name, to get thyself gone from this place—then let me assure you, gone you will be.
Darkness can push back the Light; the only creatures who don’t know that are those who’ve never heard of a sunset. We just seldom choose to do so.
Some of my own may think I blaspheme here (but my Keep is tall, made by a civilization long gone. Its walls are monoliths built atop monoliths, cunningly edged into each other so that you couldn’t stick even the subtlest blade between them. And this stronghold rests upon a mountain I have claimed for my own, which is covered with my wolven friends and hob-goblin allies. So beings of the Dark do say: “Behold the Witch-Queen of the North doth hold some views we find questionable, but she also holds a horrifyingly well-defended fortress and has cheated Death so often that even he is said to fear her. So basically, were we to decide that our Alliance is at an end, it would probably be over something important. Because we’re not idiots.”)
Therefore, I will speak freely. Hear me:
In truth, the Dark is no more powerful than the Light. And to be honest, few of us are subsumed entirely by one are the other; most nights have a Moon, most days encompass spaces no Sun will ever reach.
We avoid Banishment for many reasons. Much of it’s sheer practicality. Not every spell of Banishment lasts. And it’s easy to cast something out and believe it gone, and forget about it. (Just ask the Huntsman of a certain formerly-living Wicked Queen.)
But the Banished do not forget.
We had thought, someday, we might summon the Turned-away living dead, pull them up from the cemeteries and mortuaries, and bring them back, back where they want to be, back to wreak a truly horrible vengeance.
But it appears those plans are to be scrapped.
The Dark us, on the whole, does not Turn back the Light, because we recognize that we’re not always certain which is which. Your personal dislike of someone doesn’t make that person into an expert in the Hidden Arts and a dealer in the sorceries of twisted souls. If we are going to cast something which adds a little more chill to the heart (as is the hallmark of black magic), we’d like to use it for something worthwhile—like calling forth a demon vast enough to tear down the walls of a foe’s city.
That heart-frost is complicated. Some it kills, some it changes, some balance humanity with the inhuman cold. Do you know who’s really awful at detecting it?
Those who’ve told themselves, real hard, that such a thing just can’t happen to them.
Also, the Dark turneth not the Light because the Dark is aware: Power corrupts, and the power to drive away someone you dislike corrupts with exceptional rapidity.
The Light seems to believe, “Power corrupts, BUT NOT US BECAUSE WE’RE WAY TOO COOL FOR THAT.”
But we know all too well: anything can be corrupted. Not just into the Dark, but also into traits reserved for no single perspective: greed, fear, stupidity.
I would say that the Darkling who spares a formidable foe, not to fulfill a debt or to achieve some purpose, but out of compassion, might be accused of weakness. And maybe that’s wise and maybe it isn’t.
One of the Light, who does something colleagues view as Evil, on the other hand…
I would like to take credit for tempting the Archdruid, but in truth, she was my superior in every way: older, wiser, stronger.
Does she deserve to have been cast out and thrown among us?
I don’t think so; but it was hardly my choice to make.
She doesn’t think so, and she is angry.
I’m going to send her some chocolates. (Real ones; even if it were my intention to poison her, only a fool tries to hide toxins from a Druid.) It’s just a small gift of comfort in a time of existential crisis.
And a small, handwritten card, mentioning that, though she and I have not spoken since I left her tutelage, many years ago, I owe her a debt of gratitude.
And, as a postscript, one of the lesser-known names of the Graveyard God.
I think she’ll make good use of it.
the blighted branch