E X C O R P O R I B U S : V
Completed January 26, 2020 (♒)
Content Warning: 💀This chapter contains graphic depictions of violence and injury, as well as alluding non-explicitly to rape.💀
Author's notes at the end.
Time had fallen apart.
Whether Wiegraf was walking through the hot air of Lesalia in summer or bleeding out on the steps of Orbonne was indeterminate. He might well have been a boy of eight, being scolded lest he should drop the baby in the fireplace. He might well have been some vast and moldering body rotting beneath the heart of Fovoham.
He had felt though--he did feel as if he struggled through to the surface of a greater consciousness now--as though it were really him stumbling out of some chapel to a useless saint and into the throng of human life he had abandoned.
Belias had receded. Somebody had once said to him some nonsense about iron and holy symbols and the devil. It must have been his mother; Miluda never held to such cant, not even as a girl. She doubtlessly would take grievance with the thought that the charm bore any metaphysical import.
His head swam as its origins returned to him. The piece had been one of more than a gross his father had made to sell to men marching east in want of something upon which to pray. They took ten minutes to hammer out once you got into a rhythm, and the only thing that differentiated his from hundreds of others was that somebody had let Miluda make a few strikes on the arms. She had presented it to him when he’d left, lisping through lost teeth that she’d made it and that he was to carry it into Ordallia where he was to kill lots and lots of Ordallians.
Such recollections did not stay. Ordallians did not die. Everything ran through his grip as if smoke or water. The only thought of the icon he had now--the single pole around which his wavering mind revolved--was that jarring instant where Zalbag Beoulve had pushed it into his palm.
Air hit his lungs as he stumbled through the street. A woman, basket of linen at her hips, ducked out of his way. He thought again and again to the white hot anguish of clasping hands on that altar--of the pain of those two arms of the ornament digging into their flesh. The agony of climax; the sink of despair; the jarring, trembling cold realization as to where he was and who lay crushed beneath him: it was all grafted onto that singular moment of contact.
Prior to that, he had drifted about as uncollected fragments: chaff not yet winnowed. Everything he had remembered before the icon pierced him was like the wisps of dream that cling to a person newly awakened. He recalled the foremost points of what he--of what Belias--had done: the viciousness of his own hollowed out voice, the bright spatters of blood across Zalbag’s pale skin, the burning thrill of the rape. At the time, though, it had seemed an unreality--a facsimile of life like those set in a raree show box.
A flower girl in the street looked at him, gape-mouthed, and he realized his hand was still bleeding.
He didn’t stop. He felt the creep of his own body beginning to move without his volition, and he fell in step with it. Footfall after footfall after footfall and he floated back to the bite of the icon and the body on the altar. The beast had brought him to this. It had wrenched him back to the last piece of fleeting, clumsy affection he had known, and it had made him destroy it.
Rage and despair, it once said to him.
He felt the weight of those words now.
His vision began to narrow as he pressed forward into a dust-filled plaza, thick with the smell of birds and straw. He was walking through a marketplace, he thought. Nausea hit him as he recognized the film of sweat on his skin and the damp of blood on his tabard--hidden by the red of the cloth. Somewhere else Zalbag was dying.
Back within that broken encapsulation of time and space, though--back in that drift before awakening, he had had some passing sense that they would be back at that inn when the nightmare was over. Whatever he was before now, he had at some point and in some way imagined that all these ill dreams would unravel and he would wake up--humiliated and warm next to Zalbag Beoulve and all his ruined sanctimony.
His face was hot. His hand stung. He tried to hold to the clarity of that moment he had been Wiegraf again--to the instant he had come to and found none of the mortifying comfort he craved.
He’d stood there, sick and shivering in the wake of his crime.
He’d shaken Zalbag a moment, touched his skin.
He’d tried to make him stay.
Wiegraf began to fracture as the path he walked turned towards the cathedral. He pulled the image of Zalbag along with him. He saw his fumbling attempt to cover him with the altar cloth. He felt the fast snap of him ripping the gold icon from his neck and the press of wrapping Zalbag's hand tight--too tight--around it. He saw the mist of blood breathed out onto the altar as he lurched over to mouth words in his ear.
What were they? Belias did not let him have them. He had confessed all manner of desperate things--he knew that, but all those sins and sentiments fell away now.
Wiegraf did not try to stay as the spire of the church came into view and that last rush of the hazy summer left him. Falling back to that dark nothing to which he was condemned, his last sensation was of crushing the iron edges of his icon into his fist.
As he faded, he imagined that it pierced him through and hit bone.
Much to his brother’s frustration, Zalbag refused to bear witness against the “assassin” once he was found, although the conceit was established even without a man to hang. Within a week of the incident, he seemed once more the model of stoic resolve, and the two men never spoke again of any portion of the matter that might embarrass the other. As far as Dycedarg was concerned, the events of that day had never happened.
Zalbag no longer had any palpable memento of Wiegraf save for scars, which were easily lost amidst the others accrued over the course of a life measured out in battles. The one on his hand pained him a while though, and more than once he felt it throb somewhere under the thick of his gloves.
He did his best not to think about it.
Sometimes though, in the slow graying hours before dawn, he would awaken in starts, thinking he had heard some voice speak to him--something crying, calling... occasionally taunting. He remembered nothing of its words, save that it often bade him remain--that it begged that he not fade into the same dark of all other things to which it once clung.
In most instances, though, he had no recollection of it whatsoever, save that he awakened with those scant tears that were the natural consequence of restless dreams.
In time--as Larg seemed to indefinitely postpone their move towards Bethla--these moments faded.
Author's Notes: Raree shows were early peep shows that displayed dioramas with moving parts and were recorded as being shown in the 15th century (which would make them appropriate to a setting based on the War of the Roses).