The Voice of Reason; A Tale of Envy

The Voice of Reason; A Tale of Envy

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.

The last sin was Pride. (The first one was Wrath, which can be found here.) Today we’re delving into Envy, which is the realm of Assassin Domerin. This sin gave me a lot of trouble. It’s a huge part of Assassin Domerin’s life. To the point where just about any scene could clip it. But I wanted to depict how deeply envy runs in his veins without resorting to a simple conversation between himself and a random confidant. Then I recalled a scene I had always meant to write but never got around to, and everything clicked into place.
. . .

The Assassin’s Guild’s newest master leaned heavily on the railing of his balcony and wished fervently that it would rain. Not a soft gentle drizzle, nor a sustained night of gloom, but the kind of hard, driving rain that stung the skin with each drop that fell.

It would hardly have ruined the view; a city this size was alive at all hours, rain or shine. Even in the heart of winter, when snow coated the streets and sidewalks, there were those who forged ahead, unwilling to pause for a moment and yield to the weather. Of course, from this high up, the city’s inhabitants looked like tiny ants moving through neon-lit channels, occasionally caught in the bright illumination of a car’s headlights, and often cast in shadow when they moved to the edge of the street lamps.

But Domerin Lorcasf was used to viewing the city like this; from above, from the lofty heights roofs and niches tucked into the construction of the city’s skyscrapers. And even here, on the street the guild’s primary presence resided, no one ever thought to look up. Which meant that secrets only ever flowed one direction. Not that any of them were likely to stick in his head today. That’s why he wasn’t out on the roof tops, watching illicit lovers as they giggled with giddy relief to have gotten away with their scam.

That, and the fact that he was skunk-drunk and hadn’t slept in two days. A hazy head and swinging between rooftops didn’t mix very well. And he couldn’t go getting himself killed. Not only would he be remembered as the shortest and most pathetic reigning master of the Assassin’s Guild, he would throw the entire organization into an uproar while everyone tried to claim responsibility for his death.

As amusing as that thought was, it would be better to stick around for awhile. After all, he had come this far, and none of it had been easy. His initiation had taken place less than forty-eight hours ago and, if he managed to pass out tonight, he might just recover from the trial period by tomorrow morning. He had grown so used to standing vigilant, that waiting for seven people to melt out of the walls and try to kill him hadn’t had much of an impact. But having to kill one of his best friends, an assassin who had trained by his side for years, had certainly hurt.

“Damn the guild and its rituals,” he muttered, lifting his whiskey glass and sipping from the remains of the liquid inside. Two drops. He should probably pour another one. But he was afraid he was going to start missing the glass. Was it worth it to drink straight from the bottle? Who would ever know?

Of course, the rogue clans – who had broken with the proper guild generations ago – would send their best to test him. Claiming control over the guild was the fastest way to regain their status and guide the organization down the path they thought it should take. That had been the reason the clans split in the first place. Not that it had ever happened, but the rogues seemed to think it was still worth the effort.

No, it was the guild’s insistence that one of their own should test the new initiate that troubled him. Waste of a life, if you asked Domerin – though no one had. And a waste of good skill. If his brother at arms had been quicker or stronger or cleverer than him, he would have been wearing the ceremonial sword in the first place. That was the whole point of choosing and training the best to take the reins when the former master died.

Domerin had already downed several glasses of whiskey to honor his fallen brother’s memory, but that had only opened the flood gates to things he’d rather not think about. No, he wasn’t looking for clarity of thought tonight. He had been hoping the crisp, chill air would drive all remaining thoughts from his brain. That was why he longed so deeply for rain.

He managed to return the expensive crystal to the table without breaking it, though his hands shook throughout the process. On second thought, he didn’t want to risk dropping a half-empty bottle of expensive whiskey, so he may as well stay put. He turned his gaze back on the tiny, shadowed forms scurrying about their lives below.

“Look at you all,” he growled, his voice raw and his throat dry. “Pretty little ants with simple little lives. Must be nice.”

In the days before he assumed the mantle of leadership over the Assassin’s Guild, he could at least pretend he was only doing as he was told, striking the wicked because the alternative meant submitting to the knife himself. Now he gave the orders, which meant he ultimately decided who should live and who should die. Never again could he imagine that he was innocent. Never again could he consider life simple or straightforward.

Not that it had ever really been that way in the first place.

“Ah, come now…” the voice whispered just beyond his ears, sweet and sultry, causing a shiver to shoot down his spine. “You don’t really want to be one of them, do you? One of the boring, stupid plebeians?”

Domerin squeezed his eyes closed, but there was no escaping a voice that originated inside you. He knew what he would see if he turned, and he would rather plunge to his death than deal with it tonight.

“Not tonight,” he whispered, though he knew the plea would go unanswered. “I have far too much else to worry about.”

“Well then, my sweet little love, you shouldn’t have called so deeply to my memory.”

“How could I not? On a night like tonight, how could I resist?”

He almost felt the ghostly touch of fingers sliding across his back. Might have sworn to it if he hadn’t been four doubles deep in whiskey. Some distant part of him embraced that touch, almost enjoyed it, but the rest of him cringed away.

Still refusing to open his eyes, he shook his head and leaned further over the edge of the railing. “I have no need of your torment right now.”

“I beg to differ if you’ve spent the last hour wishing you could be like one of those down there.”

He knew the spirit would be motioning to the figures below, to the cars winding down the dark streets and the pedestrians mingling outside the various businesses that made up this district.

If there was one thing he hated more than a hallucination, it was a cocky hallucination. Though he supposed this too was his fault.

Finally, he opened his eyes, though he did not turn. He watched the ant people moving below, wondered if any of them would dare looking up at him, and knew that none would ever bother. “It’s not that I want to be like them. It’s just that I’m not always sure I want to be the way I am.”

“Envy doesn’t suit you, darling. You wear confidence much better.”

“I haven’t worn genuine confidence since the day you died.” It wasn’t exactly true; the mask had become such second nature to him now that there were times he almost believed he really was the cold-hearted master assassin he pretended to be. But if it looked like he knew the way, that was only an illusion. He was as lost in the darkness as any soul. Perhaps even more so. There were no lights waiting to guide him through these trees. He would simply have to accept wherever he ended up and hope he didn’t leave a burning trail behind him.

“You’re such a bad liar when you’re lying to yourself.”

At last he turned, numb to the fear and pain that assaulted him when he looked upon the ghostly features of his former lover. He always hoped he would find answers in those emerald eyes, but instead he got lost in the sharp features of his chin and cheeks, in the wild curls that cascaded across his shoulders in the same way they always had when the two of them made love. He never dared try touching the illusion, couldn’t bear the passing of his hand through the ghostly image his mind conjured, but he always took some small comfort from its presence, even though it shook him to his core.

“Then what would you have me do, Spirit? Admit that my jealousy is unmitigated?” Domerin took a step forward, hoping to drive the spirit backward, though figments of the imagination were not so easily intimidated. “Admit that on nights like this one, I’m even somewhat envious of you?”

The hallucination clicked its tongue in disbelief. “What reason could the living possibly have to envy the dead?”

Domerin drew a deep breath, letting his desire fill every inch of space beneath his flesh before he spoke it. “Freedom.” The single word reverberated through him in the same way the power of the spirits sometimes did. And like the forces of nature that sometimes worked through him, it tore at the deepest parts of him, opening wounds not easily healed by time or care.

“Every assassin lives in the same cage, my love. At least for you, the bars have begun to open.”

Domerin barked a harsh, bitter laugh and turned his back on the spirit, letting his gaze move again over the city at night. “The idea that the power wielded by the Guildmaster also offers freedom is an illusion. My cage is smaller and darker than all the rest. And the sooner I accept that, the easier my life will be.”

“Doesn’t sound much like the man I knew.”

“That’s because the man you knew died at the same moment you did.”

“He might wish that he had, but that’s not how life works. No one knows that more keenly than you, love. And death isn’t a form of freedom, it’s a state of finality. The dead can no longer achieve anything.”

“Don’t talk sense at me right now, Spirit. I came out here to avoid it.”

“You can’t escape what you carry inside you. If you don’t like the path you’re walking, change it.”

“Changing my fate would require changing the guild’s tenants. It would be easier to shift the planet’s orbit toward another star.”

Laughter answered. Domerin was never quite sure if the hallucination’s mirth meant he was laughing at himself, or if his dead lover really was mocking him from beyond the grave.

“If it can be done, you occupy the proper position – the only position – for the undertaking. It would certainly make you a man to envy.”

With a grunt, Domerin turned, waving his hand through the air to dispel the spirit. But it had already gone. The air behind him was empty and still, the voice silent. Normally, he would have taken that as an indication he needed to drink some more whiskey. But for once, he wanted to sleep. And he hoped when he did, it would be deep and dreamless.

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