E X C O R P O R I B U S : I I I
Completed January 26, 2020 (♒)
Content Warning: 💀🍋This chapter contains explicit rape and graphic violence.🍋💀
Author's notes at the end.
Zalbag paced after that, animate with loathing at his own disquiet. If he could have transfused ice water into his veins, he would have. What on earth had he thought would happen? What had he been hoping for? Had he imagined Wiegraf Folles would greet him in the midst of the imperial palace with a kiss and then obligingly throw him over his desk in a fit of passion?
He marched into the hall, uncertain where it was to which he was moving. He’d spent his whole life dodging his own irregularities: directing his thoughts away from the men with whom he fought and the men with whom he prayed, navigating again and again the ever present question as to why he--who had none of the flippant profligacy of his elder brother--remained unmarried.
Why shouldn’t he manage in the wake of one failure? Why should he care that Wiegraf Folles, who had bedded him entirely out of some miserable spite, should conduct himself as he ought and coldly regard him as any legitimate Templar might regard a layman?
He moved quickly, storming out of the palace and down the steps into the city as he tried through motion to cast off his thoughts. The memory of skin against his skin, of lips and teeth clumsily pressed against his own: he would be exorcised of all of it if he could.
Zalbag circled, breathed, walked the square around the city center. Eventually, he trailed back to the desmenes of the palace.
He recalled to himself the small chapel just inside the grounds--an obscure and seldom visited site on account of its connection to an unpopular saint. It was one of the few places to pray outside of the shadow of the cathedral and away from anywhere that might house visiting clergy. He made his way there, heart and head still racing. He told himself he would confess. He told himself he would damn the consequences for the campaign and let the Church deal with him if it came to that. It was what a penitent sinner ought do, was it not? Humiliation must needs be better than hell.
When he arrived at the low-roofed building, compact and typical of the style popularized by Ondoria I, he strode inside without inquiry or invitation. The altar was plain, but the vault above him swirled with bright colored portraiture. Scenes Ajora’s birth, trial, death, and ascendance framed a central image of Germon martyred, his head bowed low under the shadow of an executioner’s axe.
The saint had been a Limberrian scribe in the third century, who was killed for refusing to burn testimonies of miracles when the unconverted monarch bade him do so. His unpopularity was owing entirely to his name. Germon, apparently, sounded too close to Germonik to the ears of superstitious pilgrims. He therefore gained reputation as an intercessor only in times of last resort.
It was not a comforting thought.
Zalbag knelt to pray. The candles of the sanctuary were lit and incense was burning. Thinking on it, he withdrew the iron icon from where it lay under his tunic and placed it on the altar; he could not imagine he could keep it now.
It may have been only a quarter of an hour that he really was there, hands folded in supplication. It seemed, however, as if it had been much longer. Prayer allows some slippage of time. His reverie was broken by the creak of a door opening, and he turned, trying to compose himself as best he could in anticipation of addressing the shrine’s keeper.
Zalbag stood breathlessly, finding himself completely unfazed that Wiegraf should stand before him a second time that day. After holding him in his mind so long, he had been seized by an irrationality that left him wholly unsurprised that the man might turn from thought to flesh.
He remained motionless as Wiegraf approached. He merely looked to him, trying to expunge any mote of dread, anticipation, or hope as he did. In the dim light of the sanctuary, the man seemed paler than he ought--thinner perhaps too. There was a haggardness to his countenance now that Zalbag thought had some inflection of cruelty. Gazing upon him, his thoughts turned again and again to the words he had been left with on that night before he’d ridden to Dougala.
Think of this next time you look to heaven.
God, but he had. He had. When Wiegraf finally seized him, breath hot and eyes burning, Zalbag did nothing by way of protest. All the resolve of the past hour melted from him then. He did not resist the hand wrenched hard into his hair or the lips that pressed hungrily against his own. He kissed Wiegraf back with all the desperate violence demanded of him. He would fall, then. He would be damned. As his fingers twisted themselves into the fabric of Wiegraf’s tabard, he did not care for anything that was not the immediate sense of another body embracing his own.
Some measure of shame only found him again when he was shoved down onto the white linen of the altar cloth.
“Not here…” he managed to gasp out in a bare whisper. “For God’s sake, not here.”
“Not here?” Wiegraf looked at Zalbag in vicious bemusement; his grip on him did not waver. “Are you frightened that God will see us?”
There was something strange about his voice as it spoke the word “God.” It warped, sharp and keening--as if its tone were suddenly intermingled with something like a glass played with water.
“Please, Wiegraf…” Zalbag’s face burned as he looked to the vault, the fourfold image of the Saint looking down upon him.
Wiegraf looked down upon him too.
Bringing a hand caressingly to Zalbag’s face, he suddenly struck him.
“I asked you if you thought God was looking at you, you fucking pervert.”
Zalbag, reeling from a blow that had fallen more heavily than anticipated, struggled to get up, but he found to his shock that Wiegraf’s lone hand weighed upon his chest as though it were so much immovable stone.
He realized that he had come here unarmed. He realized that it had not been too long ago that Wiegraf had wanted to kill him.
“Do you know what I think?” Wiegraf continued in the absence of any response, laughing bitterly. “I think there is no God watching you or any other mortal man. I think God is the delusion you devout made to punish yourselves.”
Wiegraf leaned against Zalbag, dragging his free hand against his thigh and upward as if to pull off his tunic. Zalbag tried to resist--tried to wrench himself up to standing--but it was impossible. The force of Wiegraf’s hands against his body was contrary to all sense.
Zalbag had just cut his way through what felt to be half of the Southern Sky; he had never been in doubt of his strength of arms, and yet he lay here, unable to pry himself out of the barest grip of a man who had surely not been able to hold him so fast a month prior. He tried to twist out from under him as Wiegraf changed about his hold to start stripping him. All he succeeded in doing was ripping the sleeve of his shirt as it was wrenched from his body and thrown to the floor.
“What do you think of that?” His voice seemed distant; the hand he placed on his bare chest burned like fire. “Do you imagine those painted saints above will save you? Do you find a comfort in their machinery?”
“Wiegraf, why are you doing this?” His spoke in a desperate, gasping whisper; even now, even facing this, he feared to shout. Even now, he feared someone would find them.
“Do you imagine there will come some miracle to stay me?”
Wiegraf suddenly clutched at his throat, and Zalbag felt the pounding thrum of his own heart as his hand clamped against the veins of his neck and left him struggling to breathe. He choked, thrashed, grabbed at his attacker all while the eyes of martyrs bore down upon him: Germon before the axe and Ajora complacent at the gallows.
“I think there is nobody who grants men miracles.”
His voice was wrong now--wrong in its entirety. Wiegraf struck him again. The blow landed like a hammer, and Zalbag lay still a moment as a great black spot began to eat into his vision. He breathed painfully as Wiegraf left off strangling him and began to pull off his boots.
“I think that nobody watches you but me.”
He dragged him back toward the edge of the altar and began to unlace his hose. Zalbag did nothing. Zalbag lay there and traced with his eyes the gilt lines that inter-crossed the ceiling while Wiegraf pulled free his prick and began to stroke it.
He shuddered. He had still been hard. Throughout being stripped, being struck, throughout being strangled, there had still been the burning thrill that Wiegraf should lay his hands on him again. He tried to direct his mind to the void that cut off his sight, thinking that it might swallow him as he felt his hips buck against Wiegraf’s grasp.
Leaning against his naked body, Wiegraf drew close to Zalbag, putting his free hand once again to his face.
“Or perhaps,” he whispered. “Perhaps God and the saints are watching. Just watching.”
Zalbag blinked, frightened and panting.
“Perhaps they look down upon your trials, your suffering, your failures… all as a child looks at the dying contortions of an insect or worm. Perhaps they even enjoy mankind as you all writhe in the shadow of their indifference.”
Zalbag had not responded to any of his assailant’s prior theological questions; he did not believe Wiegraf had any expectations he would answer. This time, however, he gave him a glance--pained and unfocused--and moved his lips as if to speak.
Wiegraf abruptly slammed his head against the altar with enough force to draw blood.
“Writhe for me!”
Everything swam about him after that--the saints, the ceiling, the red-stained altar cloth. He imagined, in that churn of blood and darkness, that he must be writhing as commanded. The hands that touched him felt like fire, raking sharp against his skin as though they bore the claws of some great beast. All things were wrong now, moving in accord with some fever logic. He was suddenly cold in the midst of the candle glow and summer heat. Outside, he heard the bells of Lesalia cathedral toll and keep tolling, reverberating without and within him as he convulsed.
All the while, Wiegraf continued to stroke him, and he continued to rut--hot and pained--against his grip. He would fall, then. Fingers smeared blood and foam from his mouth across his face, down his neck. He would be damned. Even as another blow landed, he felt himself arc towards Wiegraf’s touch.
He shuddered when Wiegraf shifted and he finally felt press of blood slick fingers inside of him. His legs were bent back now. He cast his eyes about the room, looking for something upon which to focus, some object upon which his limited vision might catch. He tried to get up again, but found that his body would not obey. He tried to say something, but could not find his voice. All around him, the light of the candles and the paint of the ceiling blurred and melted, and Zalbag realized that he had been crying.
Looking to the figure above him, he saw what seemed the dim corona of two black horns coiling from its head.
The illusion faded as Wiegraf leaned against him once more and said something he did not understand. Zalbag swallowed back bile, trembling at the feeling of breath against his throat--at the aching throb of his own erection and the sudden pressure of Wiegraf’s prick pushed taut against his flesh. He did not scream as he was finally fucked, senses and body failing him as he bled and wept.
He was struck again. He was struck many times. He managed in fleeting moments to force motion back into his limbs, but he hadn’t the strength or control to do more than flail. For the most part, he lay there, shaking and sick as Wiegraf speared him, hands digging into the bony ridges of his hips as he pulled him into his thrusts.
Zalbag considered morbidly that there was something freeing to his inaction--that his inability to resist this somehow made his lust less an affront. He held no faith that God would agree with him. He could not see the roof any more, nor the sky that must lie above it.
He knew he was going to die.
He was going to reap the full harvest of his sins here, brutalized and violated in a holy place from which he could only kick at heaven. He felt no providence in the workings of the divine. There was no light behind the darkness consuming his vision. He was going to die here, and some poor penitent would find his naked, battered body giving testament to his crimes.
As Wiegraf continued to savagely bear down upon him, he considered what a grotesque irony it should be that he could not even find his hate. Even now, bleeding and nearly blind, he tried to imagine that they were as they had been a month ago. He wanted to think of them merely as bodies once more in proximity, with all the nightmarishness of their present coupling strained away such that he could just hold to the thought that he was close to someone again.
It was a very foolish thought.
He felt his breath go bloody as Wiegraf grabbed for his throat again and drove hard into him. Everything seemed to unravel--to fall apart into sensation and light. It was when something like the jaws of a wild animal clamped into his side that a measure of his strength found him again. Casting about his hand he found a jagged piece of metal lying alongside him.
Zalbag pressed it close in his palm and held it fast.
Then, as his vision finally faded into a deepening nothing, he moved to push it as best he could into his rapist's hand.
Author's Notes: St. Germon and the peculiarities surrounding his name were very obviously drawn from the real world St. Jude, although his actual biography was made up wholly for the purposes of this story.