It's so cold.
He wonders if perhaps he should be screaming, begging for his life. He wonders if he should try to run. He wonders if he is already dead. It certainly feels like it - his thoughts flit away from him before he can grasp them, slippery little ice slivers tumbling through his frozen mind. His limbs are numb, dead. Vaguely, he is aware of a dim, throbbing pain in his side, but it scarcely seems to matter. Most of all, he feels
snow is all around him, cradling him like an infant. Its embrace brings with it a dim remembrance of his mother, of her chilly glares, her dutiful expressions, and her sullen, unspoken resentment. She never wanted him. She never cared. She never... she...was always so
flakes are falling on his face, settling in his eyelashes, on his lips. Frozen tears running down his cheeks. That too, brings bitter pain, the sound of his father's voice, telling him that real men don't cry. He tries to move to brush away his shame, but he cannot. His body, frozen, no longer responds to his commands.
is creeping inside of him, burrowing in through the wound right below his ribs, the wound that's bleeding raw and red beneath shattered armor and shredded flesh. Steam billows from the gash in his side as the air sucks up his warmth. The cold is going to kill him, he thinks. It's going to drain his warmth, his life,and stab icy fingers into his heart.
steel is pressed against his neck, the edge of the sword drawing the slightest bit of blood where it bites into his flesh. To merely turn his head would cause it to slice open his throat. He's trapped. It can't end like this, his mind rails desperately. This isn't his destiny, his fate. He can't die, not here, not now. Not on a barren, icy patch of ground at the blade of a common knave like this. He can't. Surely, God would not be so cruel...
The sword sweeps up, relieving the pressure on his windpipe, dripping blood as its owner hefts it high. The rapidly chilling crimson splatters on his face, but he does not know if it belongs to him or his men. Nor does it matter. One way or another, they are all dead, and it seems as if he will soon be joining them.
"Go to hell, you filthy son of a bitch," the swordsman standing over him says, sobbing. The blade shifts, flares with the light of the sinking sun on its surface. Then the sunlight scatters, the blade flashes down.
And in that instant, with death sweeping towards him clad in flashing steel, Algus Sadalfas remembers.
Four years ago
The sickroom door whispered open on well-oiled hinges with only the slightest push. Algus stepped from the bright hall into its gray, gloomy confines, coughing at the rush of stale air and potion vapors that washed over him. It was only after he had let the door close behind him, taken a good look at his surroundings, that he finally realized the inevitable:
His mother was going to die.
No one had said as much - not his father, not the chemists, not even the gossiping chambermaids, but somehow he knew, and that had brought him to her chambers. Now that he was here, he wondered that he had never noticed before; the bleak reality of his mother's mortality and her impending demise was obvious once one looked beneath the surface, past the facade of falsely optimistic physicians and their ineffective medicines.
They had never been close. She had done her motherly duty with bleak and mechanical steadfastness for years, fulfilling all of the requirements but adding none of the sentiment. She had always held herself away from him, cold and aloof, denying him even the smallest personal kindness, polite word, or embrace. At first, he had been angry and hurt at her behavior, and he still remembered countless tears and tantrums, countless nights lying awake and wondering why his own mother hated him so.
With time came grudging acceptance, but resentment lingered. Indeed, how could it not when she lavished more affection on that bloated cat, Nicodemus, in a day than she had spared for him in his entire life? Yet even so, he felt he owed it to her and to his father to be here now, to say something before... before..
Even if he had not already known the advanced state of her illness, even if he had not seen the frustration in the expressions of the assembled chemists, even if he had not watched potion after potion fail, taking one look at the sickroom would have told him that she was doomed.
It had been a sitting room before, tucked into a corner on the south side of the modest Sadalfas manor with high, narrow windows to let in the sun. Now, heavy drapes blanketed the windows, making the incoming light pale and watery, cloaking the room in various shades of gray. Chemists' Bags and empty potion bottles occupied most of the available surfaces in the room, with mortars, pestles, and tiny braziers covering the rest. Dominating all was the bed, its massive canopy, thick curtains, and heavy covers enveloping his mother's frail form in a velvet cocoon. A number of chemists hovered anxiously about the bed as if waiting to see what would emerge.
This room was no place to house the living. Though his mother still clung to life, the place was already a tomb, the sickbed nothing but a coffin. For all intents and purposes, she was already dead.
Alena Sadalfas had never been beautiful, but what cold allure she once possessed had fled with the onset of her illness. Now she was nothing but a shriveled husk. Death smiled from her drawn face, perched on her sunken chest, spoke with every rattling, wheezing breath she took. It seemed to Algus that he could even smell death in the air, its heavy black stench lurking under the cloying scent of the potions, ready to pounce at any time.
Surprisingly, the gray and black cat was not in its accustomed place at the foot of the bed. Instead, a man in a green tunic and brown trousers stood there, twisting a floppy cap nervously in his hands.
"B-beg your pardon, my lord," the chemist stammered, licking his lips. "Your lady mother is resting, and she doesn't want to be disturb-"
"Don't be.... a fool, Mertens..." Alena said, causing the chemist to jump. Her eyes were still closed, and her parchment-dry lips barely seemed to move, but her voice was loud enough. "I... always... have... time for my.. son."
"Mother?" Algus said, his voice tinged with surprise. Surely he had not heard her correctly. She had never had time for him before.
"Leave us. We wish to... speak alone." She raised her arm, waved a pale, frail hand in dismissal.
For a moment, the chemists merely stood there. Then, they suddenly departed as if they had been scalded. Of course, Algus thought, they were as stunned as I am that she wants to talk to me. She really must be on her last legs...
Did she hope to make amends before the end? To smooth over years of coldness with a moment of warmth, soothe her conscience and leave him here to deal with the aftermath? The very thought made his blood boil.
Do you want me to mourn your passing, mother? Do you want me to lament that we were never close? Do you want me to weep and pray to God to save your lily white soul? Do you?
"Algus!" He started, realizing he had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he hadn't heard a word she said.
"Is that the way of it, boy?" she continued. Her voice was little more than a whisper now, as if the departure of the chemists had drained what little life remained in her. "No time for me even now, even when I'm dying?"
Damn you, mother. It's not enough that you ignored me all your life. Now you want to torment me with one foot in the grave.
"I was never the problem, mother," Algus said, surprised at the sudden strength in his voice. "You made it clear from the moment I was born that you wanted nothing to do with me. I don't know why that's changed now."
Her face curled up in the grotesque parody of a smile. "You really don't know. All these years, and you still don't. You have no idea how much it hurt me to see you." she coughed. "You don't understand what a terrible little scar you were on my life. You don't-"
He had heard enough. "What I don't understand," he said, "is why my own mother hates her own flesh and blood. If my presence offends you that much, blame yourself. You're partially responsible for my being here."
"I suppose I am," she said, turning her face away. "I remember what your father said after my first boy died. Never should have married someone from Goug, he said, noble or not. The iron in the soil makes the blood weak."
"First boy?" What manner of trickery was this? He had no brother. He had never had a brother.
"So beautiful." Her eyes were half-lidded now, as if she were staring off into the past. "He was so beautiful. I knew he was going to be a boy, I knew it when I felt him kick inside. So strong. But then he stopped, and when he was born he was dead. Weak blood..."
Algus felt a sudden chill, even in the warm, oppressive air of the room. "Why... why didn't you ever tell me?" he managed at last.
She didn't even try to answer. "We tried three more times. One I carried for months. The others were just blood on my thighs. Weak blood." Her voice caught and it seemed she might start weeping outright.
"You had me," he said, anger rising even more. "I would think you'd care more for something you worked so hard for."
"You stupid little fool," she said, her voice suddenly full of venom. With supreme effort, she heaved herself up into a sitting position, glaring at him viciously. "I never wanted you. I never asked for you. Even looking at you filled me with shame, reminded me of what I was. But your lord father insisted. My love wasn't enough for him, no, he had to have an heir. And he got one, from some commoner woman he bought. From your whore of a mother!"
She was wracked by a fit of coughing and fell back against the bed, but Algus scarcely noticed. He stood there, his mouth working silently, his fists clenching and unclenching. When at last he did speak, his voice was as weak as hers had been moments before.
"I- I don't... understand. Mother, what are you-"
"Don't... kaff call me your mother, you kaffkaff filthy whoreson." She could scarcely speak now, her chest heaving in spasm after spasm, but still she pressed on. "I... had to cough look at you for kaff years and pretend you were a lord. That you were my own kaff true son. Your father would've killed me if I had done anything less. Now I'm dying anyway. And first, I wanted to tell you just what you were. Your father can tell you whatever he wants, your guards can follow your orders, and every man you see can nod his head to you, and it will make no difference. You'll still know the truth. You'll never be anything more than a whore's bastard."
"No....." It couldn't be true. He wasn't a commoner. He couldn't be. They were like animals, grubbing in the dirt, fighting over their petty possessions, drinking, whoring, and stealing their worthless lives away. He wasn't like that at all. It just wasn't possible. It was all a lie. A filthy lie planted in the mind of a bitter, dying woman. That was all. He wasn't a commoner, an animal. He was a noble. He was a Sadalfas. He was. He was.
"Yes," Alena Sadalfas said with obvious relish.
Tears were running down his face, cool against his burning cheeks. His teeth were grinding out a harsh staccato. His heart was racing, beating so thunderously loud he felt as if the relentless thudding would deafen him. A vein at his temple pulsed along in time. For a few heartbeats, his entire body shook with barely restrained rage, and then that rage burst free.
He meant it to be a slap, but somehow on the way his fingers curled themselves into a ball of their own accord. His fist smashed against her temple with a statisfying crack, the force of the blow causing the entire bedframe to shake. Her head snapped sideways, her mouth dropping open and releasing a surprised wuff of air. She opened her mouth, perhaps to scream, but only a renewed fit of coughing emerged. She began to thrash, flailing the bedcovers back with the wild slashes of her arms.
It's not enough.
It wasn't. He was sobbing now, but that didn't matter. He only wanted to hit her again, and again, and again again again again until her teeth were splinters and her face was a shattered red ruin. Kill that lying bitch kill her Algus kill her kill her kill her-
Instead he turned and walked from the room, never looking back. Before the door could swing shut behind him, he was running, racing down the hallways of the manor, bounding down the stairs in a rush, tearing out the back door and into the misty morning. He ran across the lawn, the world swimming before him, blurry with his tears.
At length he realized he had fallen to his hands and knees. Around him, nature seemed to hang still like a pendulum frozen in time, waiting for something, anything, to happen. Blades of grass swayed slightly before his face, heavy with moisture. A beetle crawled across the back of his left hand. Far off some where, a bird warbled.
Let her die, he thought as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve. He hadn't done much more than giggle during church for the past several years, but now he prayed as fervently as any of the Zodiac Braves ever had. Kill her and send her to hell. Lying bitch that lying bitch how could she say that I'm not a noble I am I am I-
He raised his head to find himself looking a fat, black and gray striped tabby in the face. It leaned forward and sniffed at him once or twice, then rubbed its head against his chin. He reached out a hand to stroke its head absently, and that was when recognition kicked in.
The cat's purrs turned to startled shrieks and hisses as Algus's hand tightened with sudden strength on the scruff of his fat neck. He hefted the creature up before him, his mind burning with a bloody red rage.
"Mother always loved you more than me," he said. Part of his mind tried to tell him that arguing with a cat was insane, but the rest didn't seem to care. A thousand memories of his mother holding the Nicodemus, cooing to him, pampering him, loving him more than she ever did Algus filled his mind to overflowing. His other hand flew up, fastened beneath Nicodemus's throat.
"She never did anything for me. It was always you." Almost of their own volition, his hands began to twist. Nicodemus yowled, thrashed, and lashed out with his claws in a desperate attempt to get free, but his struggles were useless. Bloody lines of fire seared Algus's forearms, but he didn't notice them, no more than he noticed the tears that were once again streaming down his face or the way he continued to snarl: "You. You. You."
The cat's neck broke with a wet snap. The body spasmed in his hands, limbs thrashing wildly, bowels releasing in a sudden surge of hot urine. Algus flung the dying thing from him in a sudden rush of revulsion. His stomach heaved, and he fell to his knees, once more becoming violently ill in the grass.
It was some time before he looked up and saw Nicodemus's shattered form lying a short distance away, flies buzzing around its unseeing eyes. He started at it a long time, as if trying to commit it to memory, then finally stood and returned to the house to bandage his wounds.
His mother would die later that night. She would be rotting in the ground before the week was out, and her face would fade in his memory with blessed quickness. But her words would always remain. And with every "m'lord" he heard, with every nod of the head he saw, with every fine meal he drank or fine bed he slept in, he would remember that one damning phrase:
You'll never be anything more than a whore's bastard.
It always seemed to him then that he could smell the cloying scent of the potions, hear her labored breath, feel the cat writhing its life out in his hands again. Most of all he remembered the animal's body, its sightless eyes dead but accusing. Even it knew what he was.
Bastard. Commoner. Nothing more.
Two years ago
"Get up, coward."
The words hung in the dark recesses of Algus's mind, bereft of meaning. They might as well have been the sighing of the wind for all the sense they made to him. But that didn't matter. Everything was blank and cool and quiet, just perfect for a rest, yes, that was it, he just needed-
The world exploded into white agony as the kick connected with the side of his face. He flopped over to one side, suddenly aware even through the pain that the mud beneath him made an almost comical smack as his cheek slammed down into its damp surface. He opened his eyes, squinting against brightness of the noonday sun. His vision narrowed to two tiny slits, and it seemed everywhere there was blood: pounding in his ears, filling his mouth, dripping from his nose to stain the mud a murky red.
"Are you going to get up now?" The voice drifted down from above, mocking.
"....unfungh..." Algus grunted, his mind spinning wildly, his thoughts clattering around just out of his reach. Dimly, he recalled the jeers, the chase, the repeated blows that had knocked him down and driven him to the teetering edge of consciousness. He had done something....said-
"-something, coward. Come on, your grandfather sure knew how to run his mouth. Aren't you the same way? Say something!"
Then he remembered, the way that idiot Lance Dumelford had been grinning at him all day during sword practice, the way his big mouth had spilled the shameful secret, the ultimate secret. The one his father never spoke about. The one that had gotten a younger Algus the beating of a lifetime.
Papa, what's that they say about Grandfather? They said he told secrets-
That was as far as he had gotten before the backhand had caught him in the face and hurled nearly the length of his father's study. He gasped and opened his mouth, trying to ask why, but then the onslaught was upon him. Never! Again! Algus! NEVER! AGAIN! his father had shouted, punctuating each word with another blow. By the end of the "lecture", he was curled up in a ball, his nose and mouth bleeding, his every muscle screaming in agony.
Don't ever speak those lies, Algus. His father had said. Not in this house, not ever. Your grandfather was a great man, and if I ever hear you slander his name again... He had trailed off then, his silence promising volumes.
"N-no. It's a lie... It's all a lie..." Algus turned over again and tried to lever himself up, but his arms collapsed under the strain. He fell back into the mud amidst a renewed wave of jeers, his body throbbing with aches both fresh and remembered.
"That's enough," a voice said, heavy with contempt. It could be Lance Dumelford. It could be any of them. They all felt the same where he was concerned. "He's had his lesson. He won't try stepping above his station again. Will you, coward?"
"No...." he said, hating himself for his weakness, hoping desperately they would just leave him alone.
They did. Only their squelching footsteps could be heard as they walked away, but he found their contemptuous silence even worse than their taunts.
It had been like this for months. From the moment he had first arrived at the Limberry Academy, he had sensed animosity coming from the rest of the cadets, and time, rather than closing the gap between them, had widened it. They thought he didn't hear their subdued taunts and jibes, their whispers behind his back. They thought he didn't notice the looks they gave him whenever he outperformed them, challenged them in any way. They thought he was less worthy, he was less of a noble.
They were wrong on all accounts.
I am noble. I am. The Sadalfas lineage is a long and glorious one, with only the best of blood... the best. I'm better than any of them, and one day I'll prove it. One day they will beg for my favor like dogs, and I will remember what they did to me.
"It's okay," a voice from behind him said. "They used to do that to me whenever they felt the need, but they got tired of it soon enough."
Algus grunted and sat up again, ignoring the protests of his battered body. Vaguely, he wondered if he'd be able to walk without limping on the morrow.
"Are you all right, my lord?" the voice asked again, and Algus turned around to find himself looking at one of the academy's ragged stableboys, a tiny slip of a lad with the slim wrists and slight, narrow frame of a girl. His face and clothes were smudged, but his eyes seemed to hold a spark of intelligence.
"I.. am fine..." Algus said, still confused and rattled. "And who are you, ragamuffin?"
"Oh! Er... I'm er... Mory," the stableboy removed his misshapen blue hat, revealing a tangle of coffee-colored curls. "I'm one of the stable hands, my lord, and well, I just saw what was going on and-"
"What business was it of yours?" Algus asked, his voice suddenly hardening. Ajora, it was bad enough he had to take a beating like that, but to have someone else, especially a commoner, witness it...
"I'm- I'm sorry, my lord," Mory said, bowing. "I didn't mean nothing, honest I didn't. All it is, my lord, like I said, I just been hit by them before and I just I just--" he trailed off, his words breaking up like fragile glass under the weight of the other's flat gaze.
Algus could feel a hot spark of anger flaring to life in his bowels, fueled by his recent humiliation and the look he recognized in the other's eyes. It was pity. Pity, from this wretch? Who spent his days living in hay and horse shit? How could a worm like this "Mory" dare to feel sorry for a noble, who had known more pleasure at birth than he ever would?
The spark grew, blossoming into a roaring flame that licked at his innards and made his blood boil. The anger in him seemed to solidify, coursing down his arms, stiffening his muscles, balling his hands into fists.
Algus realized, almost absently, that he was about to start punching the stableboy over and over. He could not help but feel a grim sense of satisfaction. Here was an opponent who would not dare to look down upon him again. Here was someone to respect him, as was his due.
Here was someone to fear him.
"My lord, what's wrong?" Mory asked, drawing back slightly and raising his hands, palms outward.
Algus's first punch caught him low in the gut and bent his crouching form nearly double, sending the air flying from his lungs in a rush. The second smashed into the left side of his jaw, tossing his head to one side with a <i>crack</i>. Then came another and another and another, smashing into his frail form with the force of months of pent-up rage and frustration.
"What did I do, my l-ungh!" Mory's protests were cut off by a sharp blow to the sternum.
"Don't pity me!" Algus shrieked, losing all control now. "Don't you dare pity me! You're nothing! Nothing! Nothing!"
The stableboy collapsed in the mud, curling up into a ball in an attempt to protect his already battered and bruised body. Even though the move seemed truly pathetic, it was his only option. He could not even defend himself; for one of his station, to merely raise a hand to a noble would mean imprisonment or certain death.
Yes, that's right, Algus affirmed as he continued to pummel the hapless boy. A noble. I am. I am. I am.
At length, he ceased his assault and looked at his fists. They had begun to ache and were now an angry red, both from the force of the blows they had delivered and the spray of blood that had jetted from the other's broken nose. The stableboy had given up any attempt at begging for mercy or trying to escape some time ago and now simply lay face down in the mud as if resigned to whatever horrible punishment was to follow. He looked just like the worm he was.
Satisfied, Algus stood and walked away toward the cadets' barracks, leaving the other sobbing in a broken heap. That was good. That was just what commoners needed. That was just what everyone who looked down on him, gave him less than his due, denied him his rights as a noble, needed.
They needed to be broken.
Two months ago
The sun had risen a few hours ago, but the low hills around Igros Castle were still shrouded in a fine garment of mist. The somber gray of the low-lying fog served as stark contrast to the bright sprays of wildflowers that dotted the hills; it was only the fifth of March, but Spring had come early to Ivalice this year.
And with it, change, Algus reflected, leaning against the edge of the battlements. A scant few weeks before, he had been nothing but another nondescript cadet of the Limberry Aegis Knights, amounting to little more than a hired soldier with a scrap of nobility about him. Since then, the Marquis had been kidnapped and he had joined up with Ramza Beoulve and his men, waging a series of successful campaigns across Ivalice and successfully rescuing the Marquis.
At last, he had been able to prove the valor he knew he had all along in battle. At places like the Dorter slums and the Sand Rat Cellar Algus and the rest had sent the Death Corps reeling in retreat like the worthless dogs they were. And in the process, he had gained a powerful friend in Ramza Beoulve. Ramza was a rapidly rising star, and Algus meant to make the most of it. With a little effort, he could redeem his family once more and finally regain his true place in noble society.
Unfortunately, today did not bode well for those plans. He had awoken early, refreshed and looking forward to a day of hobnobbing with his famous host and perhaps his even more esteemed siblings. His efforts, however, had been in vain. Master Ramza and Master Delita had taken their most trusted servants with them at daybreak to go hunting on chocobos, the head maid had informed him. There could be no doubt she was telling the truth; the old bitch knew the comings and goings of the castle's residents better than Dycedarg and Zalbag themselves.
Algus was ready to rip his hair out in frustration. All those battles, all those times he had put his life on the line for Ramza, and Ramza still trusted Delita more? Admittedly, Delita was a very skilled soldier, but he was a mere commoner, an insignificant ant who only differed from the knaves they faced in his allegiance. Surely, Ramza could not prefer his company to that of a true noble?
Thinking of Delita's unnatural friendship with the Beoulve boy, Algus was reminded of a favorite saying of his father's. A dog has its uses, boy, he had told Algus, but it has its place, too. Never forget that. It was a pity Ramza had never been taught that lesson.
Perhaps I'll have to teach it to him, then, Algus decided. He would not have his rise to the top blocked because of some stupid childhood indulgence that had been allowed to go on far too long.
His thoughts were interrupted by the unmistakable sound of footsteps on the stairs behind him.
"Who's there?" he asked, not bothering to turn around. Probably another one of those impertinent castle servants. Even they seemed to show him less respect than he was due, as if they felt some of the Beoulves' nobility had rubbed off on them.
"Oh! Sorry," came a feminine, vaguely familiar voice. He turned to find Delita's sister standing at the head of the stairs. She was small and delicate, dark of hair, with brown eyes, and a face that was not uncomely for a commoner. Her name was... Teta, wasn't it? "I didn't know anyone else was up here. Do you want me to go away?"
Yes, Algus thought, but it would not do to insult her. If a remark made its way back to Ramza in such a fashion, it might not bode well for Algus's position in the unit.
"No," he forced himself to say instead. A false smile stretched across his face. "You do live here, after all."
"Well... sometimes... I like to come up here to be alone," Teta said, plucking nervously at the lace collar of her green dress. "But... if you want you can stay."
That's very kind of you, you stupid cow. Algus thought. The smile on his face turned genuine as he imagined what his father would've done to a servant in the Sadalfas household who made a similar remark.
Teta made her way over to a nearby stone bench and clambered atop it so she could see more easily over the battlements and across the surrounding countryside. Even as she did so, the long low sound of a hunting horn rolled out of the hills and washed over them.
"That's my brother's horn!" she said. "He and Ramza must be hunting today, they always do that before they go off to a battle or to training..." She trailed off as something occurred to her. "Why aren't you with them, Algus?"
"Oh... I suppose they forgot to invite me," he said. Damn it, was she going to rub salt in the wound now?
"Oh..." was her only response. "Well, that wasn't very nice," she said at last. "I should tell Alma to ask Ramza to let you come along next time."
"That won't be necessary," he said quickly, trying to keep the anger out of his voice. Her attitude enraged him, filled him with the same kind of red wrath he had unleashed on that stableboy so long ago. She would ask Ramza to let him come along? How dare she feel sorry for him? How dare she flaunt her unnatural influence before him this way?
"Okay, are you sure?"
"Yes," he gritted his teeth, weighing whether he should risk offense by just storming away before the need to strike her overrode his sense of self-preservation.
"Alma would do it, I'm certain, she's a very good friend." She trailed off again, gnawing at her lip. "...you know, I wish she was my real sister sometimes. I suppose it's a little silly... but she's always so nice to me even when no one else is."
And what's the purpose of filling me in on this sick little fantasy of yours? Algus had to bite back the words. Ramza and his sister were entirely too fond of these worthless animals. Just let her talk, he told himself. She's only a stupid little insignificant commoner girl.
"The other girls call me names sometimes, because of my status," Teta said. She brushed a few errant locks of dark hair out of her eyes, but she still did not look at him. A blush was beginning to tinge her cheeks. "Sometimes they call me ugly and push me in the mud and things like that... Alma says I'm not, but I don't know... sometimes I feel like I don't know anything."
Algus remained silent, running his eyes over her form. He supposed Teta really wasn't unattractive in the slightest, especially for a commoner. Had he not known her status, he might have even called her beautiful; her hair was long and as dark as a raven's wing, her skin smooth and unmarred, her face elegant and vaguely sorrowful. She was slender and supple and even had a fair sized bosom, all features accented by the elegant dress she wore. No, all in all, she wasn't hard on the eyes...
Damn it! Algus was filled with intermingled revulsion and lust at the thought of the girl standing beside him. She was nothing, she was less than nothing, but that only meant she was his to take if he wanted her. And in a way, he did. Her impertinence and lack of deference infuriated him, of course, but more than that, her very being dug at his soul. She wasn't supposed to look like this, talk like this, dress like this. She wasn't supposed to provoke a reaction from him, yet she did.
He wanted to punish her. He wanted to fuck her and hurt her at the same time, rip her pretty dress, make her bleed, use her and throw her away like the garbage she was. He wanted to make her his whore.
Every dog has its place, his mind giggled. Would you like to be my bitch, Teta?
But it was all bluff and bluster, and he knew it. If he didn't even have the guts to speak harshly to her, he certainly wouldn't be able to do that. He wondered how much longer she would have to talk before he got angry enough to act on his feelings. If she continued prattling on the way she was now, he supposed he'd find out soon.
"....I'm sorry..." she said at last. "I guess... I guess you don't want to hear all about this. I didn't mean to ramble on. It's just..." she spoke faster, stumbling over the words now. "I heard... of your family's disgrace... and how they treated you for it... and I thought maybe for once I could talk to someone who knew what it felt like to be... like me." When there was no reply, she said, "You know...? Don't you feel like you don't belong?"
Algus was so choked with rage that he could not speak. His teeth did not so much grind as lock together, stifling any furious screams that might have torn forth and freezing his face into a rictus of pain and fury. His fists clenched and opened again and again as if he were attempting to strangle thin air.
"You think...." he whispered between clenched teeth, "You think you know anything about my life? You think you know anything about what I am? You'll never know, do you understand?" He lunged at her, his mind buzzing with warnings.
He ignored them, grasping her by the shoulders and turning her roughly around to face him. She squirmed reflexively as his fingers bored down into his tender flesh, but he did not relinquish his grip. He pulled her closer, until her dirty little whore's face was only inches away from his own. "Never."
"Please stop," Teta said quickly, still trying to no avail to get free. The fear in her eyes only aroused him further. He'd show her how to treat a nobleman. "Please I'm sorry I'm very sorry please stop please you're hurting me-"
"Good," he said. Then he kissed her as hard as he could, muffling her fearful cries of protest with his mouth. Her fists began to beat at his chest, but he ignored them in his rush to force himself against her, into her.
She attempted to jerk away from him once more but only succeeded in knocking them both off balance. They tumbled to the stone battlements with a muffled crash, falling together in a tangle of limbs that might have been comical under different circumstances. But a cold mechanical sense of purpose filled Algus as he pinned the commoner girl beneath him, covering her mouth with one hand to stop her from screaming.
"You filthy little whore. Dressing up in pretty things, pretending to be something you can never be, trying to be a human being. You're nothing but an animal." He let his free hand cup her left breast, caressing it softly through the fabric of her dress for a moment before twisting viciously. "And you're only good for one thing."
She whimpered against his palm, her eyes brimming over with tears of pain and fear. They spilled onto her cheeks and ran down her face in two twin streams before sliding across the back of his hand. It would have been a simple gesture to shake the droplets off, but he allowed them to remain there, reveling in them as a symbol of his power over her, over them all.
"Only one thing..." he repeated, wrapping his hand around her left knee and pulling her legs apart. She was still thrashing weakly, her fingernails scrabbling at him, but he scarcely felt the pain - the sensation was muted, distant, like the touch of ghostly fingertips.
It didn't matter what she did, he knew she wanted it. No matter how she dressed, how she acted, how many sweet lies Alma Beoulve whispered in her ear, something deep within her was instinctively aware of her inferiority. She was nothing. He would take, her, break her, make her his. She should consider it an honor. Why, maybe if she was lucky he'd give her a-
The past came rushing back full force, smashing past his lust-weakened guard and hammering away in his brain mercilessly.
You're nothing but-
It's all a lie it's all a lie
Nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing
He closed his eyes and shook his head from side to side, trying to drive the shrill, screeching monster of his mother's words back into its den. It went, albeit reluctantly, hissing and biting every step of the way.
He opened his eyes again just in time to see the girl tense herself and slam her knee upwards into his crotch as hard as she could. The pain was blinding, horrific, and nearly instantaneous; one second, he felt only a certain numbness, and then came the agony and the sick twist like a knife in his innards. He fell off of her like a dead thing, biting back a scream as he rolled to one side and curled up, cupping his aching privates. Tears began to pour from his eyes now, tears of anger, frustration, and fear.
"You bitch... you fucking bitch...." he hissed between clenched teeth, his voice choked with sobs. How could she do this to him? How could she refuse a noble?
"Leave me alone!" Teta said. She tried to stand and stumbled over her own feet, falling to the flagstones again. Not bothering to right herself again, she scooted backwards away from him, her entire body trembling as if she was feeling a great chill. "You- you... I won't let you do this to anyone again!"
You fool! Algus berated himself, even as the insistent, screaming pain that had settled in his groin threatened to override all rational thought. What were you thinking, going at her like that? Even if you had been able to have your way with her, they would've found out. They'll still find out if you don't do something!
The girl would have to be silenced somehow. Rolling over to face her, he spoke, his voice low and shaky with strain.
"Listen to me, Teta..." He looked into her eyes, which were wide with fear and still streaming tears. Seeing that look reassured him a little; maybe he could still salvage something from this situation. "If you say... anything about this to anyone, you'll regret it. Do you... agh... understand?"
"I-I'm not afraid of you," she insisted, but her continued quaking and the high, manic edge to her voice said something else entirely. "Don't come any closer or I'll scream."
"Scream... all you want..." he said. "You have no proof... I even so much as touched you. Who do you think the guards will believe? A noble or some silly commoner girl?"
"They... they wouldn't..." she floundered about for a moment before finding something solid to latch onto. "A-Alma would believe me... and so would Ramza. And my brother, he's going to-"
"Do nothing. Do you really want to involve your friends in this.... tarnish their reputation? Make them the laughingstock of noble society? Do you really think your little friend would like you so much after she started to get things thrown at her in the street? Do you think she wants to be sisters with a whore?"
"And ... as for your brother... accidents happen. Sometimes... in battle... friends lose track of one another... sometimes friendly arrows go the wrong place... sometimes... people die. I'm sure you wouldn't want anything to happen to him." The white-hot agony between his legs had diminished slightly, and he sat up with effort, his eyes never leaving her face. "...right?"
"R-right..." she said, flinching away from him.
"Then get out of here... and forget this ever happened. Do you understand? This. Never. Happened."
She looked down at her lap, where her hands were fidgeting nervously together, her slim fingers intertwining in a dozen complex patterns per minute. Her head dipped and rose, the slightest of nods.
Good. Maybe his luck would hold out, and she would keep her worthless mouth shut, and everything would be right with the world.
"Now get out of my sight." He closed his eyes and allowed his head to droop, not bothering to watch her exit. The way he was aching down there now, he wasn't sure if he would be able to walk to the Chemist's without limping terribly, and he didn't want to show any more weakness in front of her than he had to.
Stupid whore... she should've given herself willingly to me. Doesn't she realize what an honor that is?
It didn't matter. All that mattered for his future was that she keep quiet. He was a noble, after all, and his dreams were far too grand to be waylaid by a worthless piece of trash from life's gutters. In the end, she was nothing but another weak animal like the rest of them, made to bend to the lash and obey orders. It didn't matter if she had defied his will today, she knew her place now. She would still tremble when his shadow fell upon her, still wake at night whimpering in fear because of him. She would think of this moment until the day she died, and she would know that ultimately his power over her was absolute, and that she was nothing.
Algus stood and began to limp towards a nearby tower, smiling through the nagging pain at the thought of what he had done here today. She might have escaped him physically, but her spirit had been dealt a mortal blow.
Teta, like so many others, had been broken.
Twenty minutes ago
The wind screamed harshly around and through the shattered walls of Fort Zeakden, swirling flakes of falling snow about in a mad dance. The snowfall had only begun the previous evening, but by now it was feet deep in most spots, shrouding the entire grounds of the fort in white except for a few broken spurs of wall that jutted up like broken teeth.
Algus, Zalbag, and a small group of Hokuten Knights were standing in the lee of one of the fort's inner towers, which partially shielded them from the worst of the weather's assault. Not that they took any notice of the snow billowing about; all of their eyes were focused on the catwalk above them, where a single member of the Death Corps held the a mere commoner girl hostage before him.
"Get out of here now!" he cried, his voice sounding distorted and distant in the roar of the wind. He had locked one arm firmly about the Teta's neck and the other about her waist, pulling her close against him with the desperate strength of a man clinging to a lifeline in a stormy sea. The thought made Algus want to laugh out loud. Teta was as useless as ever, even as a human shield. Yet the commoner continued his tirade, apparently unaware of this fact. "What if something happens to her? Don't do anything funny! There's tons of powder in this fort, more than enough to blow all of you to hell and back! Got it?" He continued to back up, dragging Teta along with him.
"The Hokuten will never be threatened by you!" Zalbag bellowed, drawing his sword and stepping forward.
Now there is a Beoulve that knows how to behave, Algus thought. That foolish, stupid Ramza, casting off his friendship in favor of the commoner boy and his sister! It was an insult he would never, could never, forget. Fortunately, he had been offered a command by Zalbag, which showed that at least someone in the family could respect his loyalty, station, and skills. Perhaps they weren't a total loss, then.
As if the very thought of the others had summoned them, a group of figures emerged from the eddies of snow at the far end of the fort - it was Ramza's band, and of course the insufferable Delita was at their head.
"Brother! Algus!" Ramza called. Algus ignored him, and Zalbag seemed to do likewise. It seemed the younger Beoulve had been neatly removed from the family almost overnight.
"Teta!" Delita said, his eyes focused on his sister's terrified form.
"Delita!" She squirmed in her captor's iron grip, but could not get free.
Her struggles only panicked the man holding her more, and he backed closer to the door at the end of the catwalk, shouting, "Get out! Now! I mean it!"
Zalbag turned to Algus, completely ignoring the cries of the man above, treating the other like the insignificant worm he was. When he spoke, his command was simple.
"Go on, do it."
"Yes sir," Algus said. He hefted the bowgun in his hands, relishing in its reassuring weight. It was a gift from Zalbag, a relic from the Beoulves' very own armory, a monstrous weapon of dark oak and Goug metalwork with the best accuracy he had ever seen. It was called, perhaps because of its dark color, the Night Killer.
He raised the weapon before him, centering the Death Corpsman's head in his sights. And then, without even thinking about it, he allowed the weapon to drop slightly, until he was gazing through the twin pieces of metal directly at Teta's chest. There was no need to kill the man without harming his hostage. Indeed, it was better that he do it this way. What better way to show his true target, to show them all, that the life of a commoner was ultimately worth nothing?
What better way to rid the world of a worthless whore?
You don't want me in you, Teta? Let's see if you'd rather have this.
He pulled the trigger, and the wooden bolt leapt from the bow, slicing through the air in a perfectly straight line despite the gusty wind. For a moment, time seemed to stand still to him, and the only things that mattered in the world were him, the girl, and the arrow between them. In that split second, a vision of instant and perfect clarity fell upon him, stunning in its ferocity. She was everything that had ever held him back, every cheap whore, every lie from his mother's lips, every harsh word of criticism. He too had coddled the commoners for too long, allowing them to live when he should have exterminated them. He could solve that problem. By killing her, he would cleanse himself.
His aim, as always, was perfect.
Teta didn't even see what was coming; certainly, she had no time to move out of the way. The bolt struck her in the left breast, knocking her back a step. The projectile ripped all the way through her body as if she were nothing more than a paper doll, piercing flesh, organ, and bone with ease. In the first few heartbeats after the quarrel struck home, she simply stood there in mute shock. Then, slowly, almost dreamily, she lifted one hand out of her captor's grip and curled her fingers around the wooden shaft.
For a moment, Algus thought she meant to pull the quarrel out, but she seemed to lack the strength or the fortitude. Her hand fell away and she looked directly down at him, her eyes filled with pain and shock and fear.
That look was worth every indignation he had ever suffered.
"Wh-What's this?" the Death Corpsman said, as shocked as the girl. He released her dying form and stepped backwards along the narrow catwalk, but Algus had already sighted and fired again. This time, he aimed low, letting his quarrel take the knave in the bowels. A lingering death by gutshot was just what a dog like this deserved; it was only a pity necessity had prevented him from giving the same to Teta.
Somehow, the girl had managed to stay on her knees despite her injuries, and Algus was tempted to send another quarrel winging her way to finish the job. But no, that wouldn't be necessary - she was apparently already mortally wounded. He wasn't sure if his first shot had hit her heart as he had hoped, but it had definitely pierced a lung. He could tell that by the blood that bubbled from her mouth and painted her lips and chin red.
Whore's red, his mind informed him, and he wanted to laugh and laugh and laugh until the sun burned out and the world was nothing but a cinder. Live like a whore and die like one.
Her lips were moving. She was trying to speak - no small feat with several inches of wood embedded in her chest. And yet, whatever she said would be an ultimately useless gesture. Nothing she had ever said in her life had mattered up to now. Why should a little thing like death change that?
"Delita..." she said, turning to him, reaching out to him. She coughed again, sending a steaming rush of blood down her chin and onto her dress. Then her eyes and expression grew vacant, and she collapsed like a puppet whose strings had all been cut at once.
"TETAAAA!" Delita screamed. He tried to run to her, but his foot caught on a stone hidden under the snow and he fell face first to the ground. Something about the pathetic act seemed to sum up all commoners so well that at last Algus did laugh shortly. And was that the faintest trace of a grin he detected on Zalbag's face?
If it was, it vanished quickly when a voice called out from behind them. "General Zalbag, more enemies on the mountain path! There are about fifty of them, and the leader resembles Wiegraf!"
"I'll be right there," Zalbag said. As he walked away with most of the troops, he looked back over his shoulder at Algus. "Take care of the rest."
"Yes, sir." Algus saluted sharply. He had been afraid Zalbag would be angry about him killing the girl, even though he had briefed him to do whatever was necessary to neutralize the enemy beforehand. Yet there had been no anger, no demand for explanations, no chance for Algus to even claim it had been an accident. She was just another casualty of war, scarcely worth a second thought even to the men who claimed to think of her as a sister. Now there was nothing to do but finish off the last Death Corps soldier, have a chuckle or two and Delita's expense, and go collect his well-deserved reward-
There was a creak from above, and Algus turned just in time to see the wounded Death Corpsman yank the door of the tower open and fall through. He fired from the hip, but the arrow only lodged in the thick wood of the door, which was slammed shut a bare second later from within.
Damn. That was going to make mopping up a lot harder. He'd have to gather a few of his knights together and try to force a breach...
"Algus!" Delita had risen to his feet and was stalking towards him. "You bastard! You're mine!"
Ramza stepped up behind the commoner, but instead of attempting to restrain the other, he raised his arms before him and clenched his fists, dropping into a fighting stance. His gathered troops followed suit, readying bows, drawing blades, and beginning to weave spells.
This is the way of it, then? This spoiled whelp is so attached to his animals that he would fight his own family's men for them? Well, if it's a fight he wants... Algus raised his fingers to his mouth and whistled, summoning his small unit of knights and mages to alertness.
Now there was no need to hold back, to tolerate Ramza's coddling of these animals. There was no need to beg and whine after his favor like a mongrel dog. Algus was better than him now in reality as he had always been in spirit. He was a true noble, at last fulfilled in his destiny and promise.
"You want to fight?" Algus asked, loading a fresh quarrel into his weapon. "Fine then. Animals are animals! I'll prove it to you!"
Ramza gave a signal and his troops moved to attack, a dozen different battle cries emerging from their throats.
"Forward the Hokuten!" Algus raised his own arm. He wasn't going to give these filthy traitors the dignity of coming to him.
Then the interior of the fort dissolved into the utter chaos of battle and he could only pay attention to what was directly around him. Namely, Delita, who was charging towards the small hill Algus was standing on at breakneck speed, his sword drawn.
"Say hello to your sister for me," Algus whispered to himself, drawing a bead on Delita with the Night Killer and pulling the trigger. The shot was perfectly aimed, and a quarrel would have taken Delita right through the throat if the weapon's firing mechanism had not chosen that moment to jam. "DAMN IT!" Algus screamed in a voice that was half panic and half rage. Spinning the weapon around in his hands, he began the nerve-wracking process of finding the source of the jam in mid combat.
Delita was still bearing down on Algus's position, his expression stony and determined. He seemed not to notice anything around him, his attention focused solely on the man who had killed his sister, the man he now meant to slay. Algus could feel real fear growing within him now, fear that tasted bitter. How could he be so terrified of a mere commoner? Delita was nothing! Nothing!
The bow was still jammed. He spun it over, yanking off one glove so he could better manipulate its workings. He pulled at the complex web of cranks and levers with feverish abandon, ripping off fingernails and leaving blood behind in his rush, and still there was nothing.
This is falling apart God damn it falling no oh God no God why won't you fire you stupid piece of shit why won't you fire-
"Myria! Jens! To me!" He called to his bodyguards. They would protect him, they had to. Jens was a full-fledged Hokuten Knight, and Zalbag had told him that Myria had been among the best students in her magic classes at the academy.
God, you're practically squealing like a child now, Algus. Do you want your troops to be ashamed of their commander?
It didn't matter if they were ashamed. It mattered that they obeyed.
As Jens drew his broadsword and positioned his considerable armor-clad bulk in between Algus and the advancing Delita, Myria raced to the crest of the hill, her indigo robes whipping around her in the wind. After reflexively straightening her pointed hat, she raised her hands to the sky. Those damn disturbing glowing eyes of hers drifted shut, and she began to gather magical energy. A red aura formed about her body and bright red sparks winked into existence and danced like fireflies in the air around her.
"Destruction of nature," Myria intoned, her voice slightly muffled by the shroud about her face. "Gather in flame!" She extended her arms before her, palms outward, and a glowing ball of flame began to take shape between them, growing as it absorbed more and more of the dancing sparks.
The aura flared brightly around the female wizard, accompanied by a strange whistling sound. She stepped forward and tossed her head back, a few strands of her blond hair slipping from beneath her hat and streaming out behind her in a rush of suddenly balmy wind.
"FI-" Her words were cut off just as the whistling sound ended with a solid, meaty splurtch. The aura and the fireball winked out of existence instantly as Myria's hands fell limply to her sides. She did a slow, lazy pirouette, revealing an arrow that had pierced the brim of her hat, entered her eye, and lanced all the way through her head before bursting out the back of her neck. Then, she fell to the earth, twitching like a dying rabbit.
"Shit!" Jens was sweating profusely even in the cold, and Algus noticed that his grip on his sword seemed very unsteady. These men were supposed to be the best? What kind of incompetent group had Zalbag saddled him with?
"ALGUS!" Delita shouted, leaping over the body of a fallen Hokuten Knight. He was caught up in the throes of battle madness, his screams so strained and distorted that they scarcely sounded human anymore. "I'll kill you! I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"
"Stop him now!" Algus yelled in Jens's ear. "Have you forgotten your orders?"
As the knight moved to comply, Algus finally threw the Night Killer aside in disgust and scrabbled for the sword at his belt, wincing as the tender flesh of his shredded fingertips brushed over the hard leather scabbard. He had wasted too much time with that stupid bow gun, but it would have been so poetic, so proper to slay that knave with his patron family's own weapon.
Jens bulled forward and swung his sword in a vicious diagonal slash that was meant to split the commoner boy from crotch to stern, but Delita's own blade met the strike and turned it aside with such force that the other was knocked off balance and sent stumbling forward. Nimbly sidestepping the now headlong rush, Delita grabbed one of the Hokuten Knight's armor-clad arms with his free hand and jerked viciously back and upwards. Jens's shoulder gave with a wet pop as the combined forces of Delita's hold and his own forward momentum caused more stress than it could bear, yanking the bone violently out of the socket. Jens fell to his knees, screaming shrilly, his arm jutting out from his body at a crazed angle suggestive of a weathervane. His suffering was short-lived; Delita snuffed his life with a swift stab to the base of his neck that completely severed his spinal cord and sent him tumbling into the reddening snow.
Algus drew both his sword and a shuddery breath at the same moment as Delita turned from the Jens's corpse to face him. Meeting the other's gaze, Algus felt his bladder tighten up and his heart began to beat at a manic pace. Delita was like a demon out of hell. His eyes smoldered with barely restrained rage, his face, clothing, and his sword were splattered with the blood of the dead, and worst of all, he was smiling. A grin that spoke of utter madness, reckless abandon, and above all, the desire for vengeance.
The desire to kill.
Algus held his sword before him in both hands, stilling the quaking of his arms with effort. He wasn't going to be afraid of this worm. He would kill him just as easily as he had his sister. Delita was nothing next to him, an insect to be crushed.
I won't let him see me afraid, Algus thought, determination forming over his fear like a thin layer of ice over a pond. I won't give him the satisfaction.
"Don't worry," he said, rushing at Delita and slashing horizontally, "You'll be joining your sister soon enough." He hoped he sounded braver than he felt.
Delita caught the strike on the flat of his blade and then forced his weapon sharply upward, causing Algus to stumble backwards, his guard opening wide. Delita advanced before the other could regain his balance, his sword flickering and striking in a blur. His movements were sure, mechanical, utterly deadly.
Algus retreated before the steel onslaught, his breath coming in short sobs as he tried to deflect the torrent of blows raining upon him. For the most part, he was successful, but Delita was fast, too fast, and though he could not land a killing blow, he was inflicting myriad minor wounds. Delita's blade carved dozens of tiny nicks and cuts into Algus's arms, none of them serious but all of them bloody and naggingly painful. A backslash tore a thin strip of flesh out of his thigh, a particularly well timed cut scored him lightly across the cheek, a stab scraped narrowly by his side...
Algus's mind gibbered with fear.
He's good he's TOO good he's carving me up oh fuck he's carving me up how can this be happening how can I be losing....
Algus could only watch in mute horror as a particularly fierce strike snapped his blade off at the hilt and sent it flying away in a lazy arc through the air. For a moment, there was only a terrible stillness and silence, and then Delita spun smoothly and lashed out, his blade biting deep into Algus's side. The sharpened steel edge smashed into Algus's armor just below his ribs and kept going, ripping through breastplate, chainmail, cloth, and finally flesh as if they weren't even there. Pain followed in its wake, sudden and crippling.
Algus looked down to see that the last six inches or so of the sword had completely vanished within his side. Blood spilled from around the edges of the blade, running down the weapon's blood channel in dark rivulets and quickly clotting in the cold air.
Delita pulled the blade free in a spray of blood and a cloud of steam and swept it back to rest on his shoulder. The manic smile on his face vanished, replaced by a look of confusion and sorrow. Tears spilled from his eyes now, and when he spoke, his voice was choked with sorrow.
"Why?" he said. "She was my sister. She never did anything to you."
Algus felt his legs start to buckle. The pain was nearly blinding, and he could barely stand, but at least he could speak. "B-Blame yourself... or... God. She... was... nothing... only a weakling. Just... like... you... just like... all of you.... ungh... Damn you... How could I be beaten by weaklings... like you?"
"We commoners may be weak," Delita said. "But you..." He kicked Algus in the stomach, causing him to fall backwards into the snow. "You are truly pathetic."
How dare he talk to me like that? How dare he?
But Delita dared because he had won. Not through trickery, or subterfuge or betrayal, but through open combat. He was right. Algus was nothing. After a lifetime of denying it, raging against it, his own weakness had at last been proven.
Just a whore's bastard, nothing more. Nothing. Nothing.
Algus felt broken, defeated. In the end, she had been right, his mother. How could it be otherwise? A noble could never have lost to a knave like Delita. A noble couldn't fail so completely, so utterly, so terribly. He had deluded himself, convinced by his father that he was something more than an animal. He had grasped for power that he had no right to, tried too hard for something he could never have, believed too much in an identity that fate itself had denied him.
Blame yourself or God.his own words mocked him.
Animals have no God. his father's voice whispered back.
He thought of Nicodemus, shuddering in death so long ago in his very own hands. One animal putting another to death. He thought of himself being kicked like a dog by the other cadets, ripping into the weaker stableboy, mounting Teta like she was a bitch in heat. He was an animal. He had always been an animal. And now he was going to die like one.
He was a commoner. He was useless. He was nothing. He was dying.
And most of all, he was just-
The sword hangs in the air, moving as if through a thick syrup; time seems to have slowed and fractured during his reminiscing. And yet, there can be no doubt that the weapon will soon strike him dead and bring his destiny to a crashing halt.
And yet, in the final moments of his life, it all becomes clear. Painfully, shamefully clear.
Here is determination no title can stop. Here is ferocity that cares nothing for ettequitte or decorum or fine wine. Here is life, raw and real and desperate to survive. Here is power.
He imagines them arising in a great multitude from their filthy holes and mundane lives and taking up arms. They have never known honor or glory or power, but they must desperately want it. They must need someone to show them the way. That's it! All they need is a leader. All they need is him.
It doesn't matter if he's a commoner or not, he can still fulfill his destiny. What does he need with Ramza, with Zalbag, with the Beoulves? They are only men. He could have hundreds, thousands of them at his disposal at an instant.
Delita! his mind shouts, Stop! Don't you see? We are brothers!
The blade slices through his neck with a wet, grisly sound, and then comes brief pain and a terrible roaring in his ears. Life and the world spirals away from him at breakneck speed, as if an inky veil has been thrown across all his senses at once. It's all gone and it's all fading away. And it's all-
And there we are, just my take on Algus. The way I see it, he had a major chip on his shoulder beyond even what the game showed, and so this was my attempt to see what might have caused it. Or maybe I just heard "Algus is a bastard" so often...
In any case, most of these events manage to miss those in the game - the scene where Algus and Teta interact at Igros takes place (obviously) after the Marquis has been rescued but before the battle at the Thieves Fort and Teta's subsequent kidnapping.
The scene at Zeakden is 50/50 quotes from the game and stuff I made up. Sorry, I just could NOT make myself quote the wonderful "flower sellers" line. As for "Blame yourself or God", hey, figured ol' Delita had to pick it up from somewhere, right?
And yes, with this fic out of the way I'll be back at work on Dark Empress... more of which would be with you now if not for the rather unfortunate deletion of about ten pages worth of writing... (THE SADNESS).
Thanks for reading.