Always Waiting; A Tale of Patience

Always Waiting; A Tale of Patience

I’ve done two rounds of Seven Deadly Sins prompts, mostly because I have such a large pool of characters to draw from. While flipping through other prompt suggestions, I happened to find a list of the Seven Heavenly Virtues (which seem to get a lot less press). In case you’ve never heard of them, they are: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility. So now that we’ve seen the darker sides of my characters, why don’t we take a peek at their virtues? First up is Cazella, whose greatest virtue is patience. (Or is it?)
. . .

Patient; bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.
. . .

Without access to the sun, every hour was the same. She spent all of them listening for even the smallest indication of sound above. Sooner or later the footsteps would draw close, the sliver of light would appear, and her master would descend the stairs to his dungeon.

The absence of light and the disuse of her eyes enhanced her other senses. She might just be able to hear every insect seeking a way through the heavy doors and windows. She certainly heard wild creatures pawing at the building’s foundation, testing their teeth against the solid stone.

But while each sound made her heart stutter, it was the sliver of light surrounding the open door that triggered true panic. As soon as that brilliant lance pierced her eyes, her master’s presence became inevitable.

She traced each footstep as he came; seventeen stairs. The fifth and sixth from the bottom always emitted a series of protesting creaks as they claimed his weight, but never did the sounds give him pause.

The floor beneath her, made of hard-packed earth, offered no trace of his passing. So that his presence was always announced the same way; with his soft voice next to her ears and his hot breath against her face.

“So patient,” he purred. “Always waiting for me.”

Not that she had any choice. Nor could she answer around the gag he shoved in her mouth to keep her from screaming. Not that any of his household staff would have responded to her cries. They all pretended the door didn’t exist, let alone what lay beyond it. Sometimes, after the light appeared, she heard the soft whimper of other prisoners. But given the frequency of her master’s visits and the intensity of his focus, she guessed she was now this prison’s sole occupant. Perhaps he had tired of the others. Or perhaps she alone had survived.

Hearing was not her only sense enhanced by the denial of light. Her skin burned at the slightest encouragement, her master’s touch echoing through the deepest spaces beneath her skin. It might have had something to do with the bindings that kept her from moving more than in inch in any direction. It might have been because her feet could not touch the floor and her hands could not feel along the walls. The only sensations allowed her, aside from her master’s touch, were the sharp bites of the ropes binding her and the dull aching generated by muscles too long denied use.

Her body’s aching desire for sensation was the gravest betrayal of all. It amused her master to no end how he could make her shiver, despite her loathing. Her body cried out for more even as she silently willed him to cease. Even the snap of his whip across her flesh offered release from the long monotony of the empty hours between his visits, no matter how miserable they left her after his departure.

But she refused to make a sound, no matter how long he tormented her. Perhaps it was a mistake; perhaps it was what drew him so frequently to her side. But it was a personal victory and she clung to it through the desolate hours of her captivity.

One day, her master would make a mistake; bind her too loosely, forget to check the ropes for wear or leave her in a position she could easily leverage. Sooner or later, she would find her way free. And on that day, as soon as he closed the door, she would repay him for every second she spent in misery.

*  *  *  *  *  *

A different kind of darkness shrouded the master’s bedroom. It wasn’t nearly as absolute as the dungeon where he kept his toys. Even with the door closed and the curtains drawn, it was easy to discern the dim outline of the fine furniture, rich decorations and clutter that filled the room.

Here the sounds of the household were muted, but still easily identifiable. They formed a background buzz that could keep the mind occupied for hours, but would be easy to ignore as soon as it became familiar.

The master’s quarters were tucked in an out of the way portion of the house that somehow managed to be close to everything important while still affording him the maximum amount of privacy. He must not allow the servants to enter without his supervision, considering the amount of clutter scattered across every available surface. Then again, the sheer number of his belongings – whether or not they were of any value – must have convinced him that he was, indeed, a rich man.

Cazella had seen rich houses; this could never pass. Everything was too poorly constructed, the cheap nature of the materials revealing their heavy use. She had seen poorer houses maintained better, which earned the owners an extra measure of respect from the upper class, however grudging.

But she hadn’t needed a grand tour to know that the master of this house was petty. He fancied himself powerful and every ounce of influence he could leverage over another left him feeling heady and drunk. He probably spent hours contemplating clever plans that never came to fruition. The men he aspired to emulate would laugh if ever he could catch their attention long enough to make them aware of his existence. It was only that his house occupied a desirable location in a reasonably sized backwater that even gave him the illusion of the luxurious life he craved.

Cazella probably could have written his life story based on a few hours wandering the halls and a brief glimpse of his bedroom. But she cared little about the details, focused instead on its ending.

The master saw nothing amiss when he opened the door. His eyes scanned the room; a healthy precaution. Given the room’s state of disarray, it would have been easy to see if anyone had intruded on his sanctuary. The bed wasn’t even made.

Satisfied by this rudimentary security, he grinned like the cat with the cream and closed the door behind him. The bed frame shifted as the mattress springs struggled to manage his weight.

For half an hour he shifted, sprawling this way and that across the bed, seeking the one piece of worn bedding that might just prove comfortable. Cazella knew he was asleep when the rough, nasal snoring filled the room. But still, she waited. She waited until his lips smacked absently and the roar of his night breathing faded to a hum. She waited until he was so deep in sleep’s oblivion that he wouldn’t notice the feather light shift as she shimmied out from beneath the frame and braced one knee against the bed.

There was no light to glint from the edge of the blade as she held it poised above his neck, but she had already tested its edge before assuming her vigil. It was razor sharp, slicing through thick skin and critical arteries without a hint of resistance.

At the last, his eyes shot open. It was the first time she glimpsed them clearly and they were filled with shock and fear, a stark contrast to the sinister nature of his voice when it purred in her ear. He tried to speak, perhaps to beg for mercy, but all that escaped his lips was a gurgle and a froth of blood.

She had every right to smile, but she didn’t. Instead she leaned forward, careful not to spill her hair over the edge of her shoulder. “I’ve been patient,” she murmured, her voice barely more than a breath on the air.

She could tell by the slight widening of his eyes that he had heard.

She waited until his life fled completely; just to be sure. Then she extracted herself, careful not to touch the blood – or anything else, for that matter. She took the knife with her. By the time anyone from the household discovered its master, she would be long gone.

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