E X C O R P O R I B U S : I
Completed January 26, 2020 (♒)
Author's notes at the end.
Hours later, after Wiegraf had resigned himself to the necessity of removing the weeping girl and all that entailed, he delivered the speech he had envisioned for the past year and a half, and he delivered it flawlessly.
He said every biting word that had been in his heart; he made every retort he had planned to make to every objection Ramza Beoulve might possibly raise. If it has been festival season in the land of his youth, the guild might well have given him a prize for committing his lines so well to memory. The confrontation had all the trappings of melodrama and morality that made for a good passion play, and it was a damned shame that he could not be moved by his own performance.
It was all such dismal foolishness. Ramza was not Zalbag, but he could not help but carry some trace of Zalbag’s likeness. What revenge could he enjoy with that weight on his brain? Did he envision himself at his sister’s grave, telling her of his gallant deeds? “Be at peace Miluda, I ran through Ramza just before the rest of the country dragged him to a pyre, and I grieved General Beoulve a little earlier by ineptly fumbling about with him at an inn.”
He did his utmost not to let thoughts of that mortifying encounter affect him, but he recognized after a few passes that this was futile. It incensed him that the boy should look upon him and mock him, trading barbs that presumed some knowledge of him and his griefs.
Wiegraf pressed on, drew the white flame of his arts into the strike, retreated before Ramza could make a riposte. All the while, some irrational fear gripped him that the bright-eyed youth might annihilate him, basilisk like, with his gaze.
Ramza was not Zalbag, he told himself as he feinted and lunged. Ramza had been a child throughout the last war. He pressed against the long monastery shelves, trying to keep track of whomever was behind him. Somewhere, the knight who had previously flagged Izlude down gave a pained shout. Wiegraf did not rush to her aid but closed his eyes a moment in the flicker of swords beating.
Ramza, Wiegraf thought, probably yet bore no scars.
When next he looked to his opponent, he found that the boy’s eyes had drifted to the gaudy ornament at his neck and that they had widened in baffled recognition. Wiegraf froze a moment, breathed, and tried to take advantage of the distraction--tried not to think about what it meant. As he made that push, however, he suddenly felt the bite of steel slide between his ribs.
The spit in his mouth turned to bitterness and copper, and he realized that he’d half run himself onto the youth’s blade.
Ramza, looking unerringly at the icon his brother had worn until recently, seemed quite as shocked as he was.
Everything, half dark and drifting, seemed a blur after that. He was on stone. He was in rain. The drops of water bored through him as they hit the stinging surface of his injuries.
The girl still cried, and the boy still shouted, and he was dying.
He tried to imagine them then: all those shadows of the comrades he’d failed. He tried to imagine Miluda. He could conjure none of them to mind. He said things to the mud, choked out an order, tried to pour the sudden heat of the stone he held back into his body. Nothing availed.
Before he saw the flare of the blue light above, he wept. Death made him childish, and like a child he hoped that somebody might hold him.
Author's Notes: Early plays in real world medieval times were often productions put on by tradesmen's guilds, and I'm having Wiegraf be familiar with them on account of being characterized here as a blacksmith's son.