The General’s Twin; A Tale of Pride

The General’s Twin; A Tale of Pride

Back when I started the Seven Deadly Sins project, I joked that there were probably enough off-shoots of Domerin that I could write a prompt for each sin featuring him. It’s taken some time but I have, indeed, found a Domerin for every sin.

As a follow up to Wrath, which kicked this project off, I present to you Pride. These two prompts take place in the same universe, but are narrated by different versions of Domerin. The Wrath version of Domerin was displaced from his home dimension into the one the Pride version inhabits. You’ll notice the two of them have radically different perspectives about how the world should function.
. . .

General Lorcasf breathed deep of anticipation the moment he heard the first echo of chains jangling in the hallway. For months, his enemies had exhibited an uncanny sense of his plans, moving with perfect precision to counter his orders, despite the care he took for secrecy. Few knew exactly what he would do before the moment arrived to act, which made the weeding of traitors from his ranks far easier to accomplish.

Tonight, the guilty party would pay. And his suffering would serve as an example to anyone else stupid enough to risk opposing him.

One last purge of those who couldn’t stomach the change of leadership, and nothing would be able to stand in his path. Kingdoms would speak his name with fear, their armies would flee broken before his might, and their subjects would bow to his glory, or he would smear their blood across burned landscape. Either outcome suited him.

The prisoner stumbled as the black-armored guards tugged him through the throne room’s main arch. It would have been deliciously appropriate had he sprawled on his face before the growing crowd, but he managed to catch himself at the last moment. Damn his elven grace. He lifted his chin with haggard dignity and tossed blond curls out of his face with a gentle jerk of his head. His remaining storm-grey eye was dark and his lips were pressed into a grim but determined line.

“General…” the archmage whispered at his side, his voice full of concern. It twisted his gut to know the archmage possessed such fondness for anyone but himself. Perhaps that only made this moment all the sweeter.

“I warned you this was going to happen,” he replied, not taking his eyes from the prisoner.

“But I can prove that General Abolan is loyal. I only need time.”

“General Abolan’s time has run out,” General Lorcasf announced loud enough for the entire assembly to hear. His words brought a hush to the crowd and he sensed the archmage tense beside him. Good. Let the man see how weak and unworthy his former guardian was. Then there would be nothing left to stand between them. “You are accused of treason and of conspiring with the enemy. More than that, you have spent the last several weeks disobeying direct orders, falsifying orders, obstructing troop placement, disrupting the flow of battle, and trying to lure others to your cause.” This last drew a gasp from the crowd. “How do you plead to the charges, General?”

How he hated the defiance that blazed in Abolan’s eye when it narrowed in his direction. How dare he try to maintain his dignity at a time like this! But he would pay for it, tenfold, and Lorcasf would savor breaking this proud old fool. It would be his reward for the patience that brought him to this moment.

“Not guilty,” Abolan sneered, never breaking eye-contact.

General Lorcasf’s top lip curled into a triumphant smirk. “Of course you would say that, General Abolan. But what proof do you offer? None have been so defiant as you in recent days. Perhaps you believed your position as the archmage’s guardian would protect you? If so, you were sorely mistaken. He is more loyal to me than anyone here.”

“I serve the cause the best way I know how,” Abolan retorted, his voice low, almost a growl. “The roads must remain open if you wish to move troops with speed and the lands through which they travel are still plagued by fell beasts. My unit is specially trained to handle such threats. Should we risk attack from the side while you try to press forward?”

In the past, Lorcasf might have accepted such a plea as genuine and allowed his former ally to walk free. But even if this particular general was not the cause of his woes, he needed a scapegoat, one whose fall would send a powerful enough message to his remaining detractors that it was unwise to stand in his way. And why shouldn’t he remove the last obstacle to the archmage’s affections while he was at it? He had already chosen Abolan’s replacement; he saw no detriment falling on him given the situation.

“We held those same lands with a fraction of the manpower mere weeks ago. You cannot possibly believe stupid beasts to be a bigger threat than a well-trained army. Your stubborn refusal to commit the full force of your men to the cause is more than enough to warrant a trail. But how else can you explain the enemy’s constant ability to break through our lines if you have not share our battle plans with them?”

“I have served this army longer than most of you,” General Abolan replied, lifting his voice to address the crowd. “Including you, General Lorcasf. My dedication has always been to these lands, no matter their leader. I have no desire to see its might broken. I maintain that your priorities and mine are not at odds, though you willfully ignore the threats I try to bring to your attention.”

“Lies, of course,” General Lorcasf nearly purred in response. “Exaggerations to distract me from the victory at hand.” He slid to his feet in one, smooth, fluid motion and glided down the stairs so that he stood before his captive.

The guards laughed cruelly as they cleared his path, jerking the chains to force General Abolan to his knees. Lorcasf towered over his captive for a moment before reaching down to take rough hold of his chin, forcing his head upward and slightly to one side. “Perhaps your execution will serve as a reminder to the legions who leads here. And why it is unwise to cross me.”

“I warn you, General,” Abolan spat, “if you choose to execute loyal men, you will be left with only traitors to stand by your side.”

Was that a hint of desperation in the man’s voice? Lorcasf was going to enjoy this even more than he thought.

But even as he opened his mouth to respond, an uproar erupted from the crowd. It was to be expected; Abolan’s men were as fervently loyal to him as he claimed to be to the archmage. Not that it would save him.

Someone shouldered his way through the crowd. Lorcasf couldn’t see his rank insignia, but it hardly mattered. Even if Abolan’s second tried to fight for him, it would merely result in a double execution. Kill enough of their leaders and the remains of the unit would fall in line.

The bold soldier had dark skin. His hair might have been long, but it was tucked into his high collar – which was odd enough – but what caught General Lorcasf off guard was the intensity of his deep blue eyes. Looking into them was almost like glancing into a mirror.

The soldier continued his forward push until a pair of guards at the front of the crowd crossed their spears in front of his face, warning him backward. He hesitated, perhaps thinking better of his ploy, and locked eyes with Lorcasf instead.

“With all due respect, General Lorcasf, I can prove General Abolan’s innocence.” The soldier must have been high within Abolan’s ranks; he projected his voice naturally, without even trying, allowing his words to reach the farthest corners of the room.

Lorcasf glanced in his captive’s direction, curious to know how he would respond to the soldier’s arrival, and found shock written across the man’s face. His single good eye was wide, and his lips fell partway open. Had he, too, noticed the uncanny resemblance between the two men? A resemblance that grew more distinct as the soldier reached up to unfasten his cloak, allowing his midnight hair to tumble free of its binding.

Swallowing a jolt of surprise, General Lorcasf wheeled to look over his shoulder, eyes locking with the archmage’s even as he allowed Abolan’s chin to slide from his grip. There, too, he found shock and a hint of horror. So no one had known there was someone running around the keep wearing his face?

“What’s the meaning of this?” he snarled, spinning to glare at the interloper.

“It’s quite simple, really,” his twin replied as if he had just initiated a casual conversation about the weather. Almost absently, he reached out to push the guard’s spears aside, stepping into the place they had occupied a moment later. The startled guards yielded, stepping backward as the false general stepped forward. “General Abolan hasn’t been leaking your plans to the enemy. I have. It’s amazing how responsive your people are to their own commander. They never question a thing.”

Whoever was beneath that illusion was going to die a slow and painful death when General Lorcasf got his hands on them. And when he was finished, he might just ask the archmage to drag them back to life so that he could visit a second round of agonizing death upon them. If he was feeling generous, he might only do it thrice. But at the moment, he decided not to waste his breath on words. Instead, he drew the sword from the sheath at his hip and charged.

No warrior in this keep could rival him; it was the reason he now sat on the throne. His sword moved almost faster than the eye could follow and, within seconds, it would slice through the interloper’s neck.

Except that the stranger bearing his face moved with the same speed and grace he did. Even the sword he drew from the sheath at his hip was identical to the General’s. And when Lorcasf reached over his shoulder to draw the second sword free of its sheath, the stranger mirrored the gesture. Instead of finding flesh with his firs swing, steel ground against steel, the stranger pushing hard until he forced the general to give ground.

He darted backward, not allowing himself to dwell on the fact that his opponent was more than a match for him. He wouldn’t allow this insolence to stand. With nary a thought, he sent flames dancing across the sword in his right hand while lightning crackled and danced across the blade in his left.

But it did give him pause when the stranger mirrored the gesture. How could it be possible? Magic, perhaps. Spelled blades designed to mimic the channeling the general used to power his blades. That was sure to make them messy and less effective.

Yet as the two titans met again to continue their deadly dance, it became abundantly obvious that was not the case. The general fought with fury, allowing anger to drive his movements and add power to his swings. But the imposter fought with patient grace, catching the general’s movements as he crafted them and responding in kind. They matched each other blow for blow but, in a battle of attrition, the imposter was sure to win.

Which was why General Lorcasf couldn’t allow the fight to go on for any longer than was strictly necessary. He pressed every advantage, sent the power in his blades surging toward his opponent every time their blades met. And slowly, after far longer than it should have taken, the general began to push his twin back, forcing him to yield ground while he focused on defending himself from the wild flurry of blows the general unleashed.

He had almost backed the imposter into a corner when the man lifted his blazing sword and drove it downward; not into the general’s flesh, but into the stone of the floor. Somehow the eleven steel cut through the floor like butter, perhaps because of the spell that surrounded it.

Moments later, flames erupted around the general’s position, consuming him before he had a chance to do more than throw his arms in front of his face. He screamed in outraged agony as the flames licked his skin, but it wasn’t the fire that angered him so.

How was this possible? How could the imposter not only channel energy – a gift as rare as midday turned to premature night – but channel it better than the general himself? This defeat simply could not be allowed to stand. He had to find the interloper and make an example of him before he lost all credibility.

It was with this thought in mind that he dared to roll through the flames, trusting there would be plenty of soldiers nearby to pat them out. And true to his assumption, he found plenty of eager followers ready to earn his favor.

“Find him!” he snarled, pointing in the direction the impostor had fled. “Find him and bring him to me alive!”

Only one general could rule supreme in this keep, and he did not intend to lose the position so soon after he had snatched it for himself. More than that, there could be only one General Lorcasf and, having been born to the title, he didn’t intend to let anyone steal it from him.

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