Worth Dying For

Worth Dying For

This is one of those spur of the moment scenes that popped into my head, so I decided to write it down. Scenes like this are the primary reason I love doing these weekly freebies; I wouldn’t have anything to DO with them otherwise. (And most would probably end up lost.)

Anyway, this takes place in the Darkspace universe, which is my monthly tabletop RPG group. This happens during the transition between the end of one plot and the start of another. It wasn’t worth acting out during the session because it only involves my characters. But Domerin and Ves certainly have some issues to work out going forward. (Especially since Ves’s sister kidnapped Domerin and caused some serious damage to his life.)
. . .

Ves was no stranger to dangerous situations. She hadn’t ever exactly been cavalier about marching toward certain doom, but working for a mercenary company like the Immortals required a certain amount of reckless nature. Of course, it had been easier in the beginning, when she still believed in the life that came after, in the nobility of blood sacrifice and the warm embrace of the goddess.

As her faith wavered, so had her courage. Death was far more frightening when it meant the end of everything, full stop. The most terrifying situation she could remember involved investigating the disappearance of several crew members aboard a ship infested by some kind of monster mold. How did you fight an enemy like that? An enemy that moved silently through light and shadow, that had already beaten you by the time you became aware of its strike? There was no honorable or courageous death in a situation like that one. Even the Death goddess would have agreed. She still hadn’t managed to shake the nightmares.

So it said a lot about her current mental state that she would much rather go back to that ship than step across the threshold into Domerin Lorcasf’s hospital room. She had experienced enough of his daughter’s death glares to dread one that came from the source. And finding herself pinned by the man’s impossibly intense blue eyes was only the beginning. She would do just about anything to avoid the tongue lashing that followed.

Just about anything, she reminded herself both loudly and firmly, so that whatever dark thoughts might be lurking in the back of her head would take a hint and keep their big damn mouths closed.

Drawing one last deep breath, Ves steeled herself and set her hand on the doorknob. In slow motion, she turned it and pressed the door open. Inch by agonizing inch it slid aside to reveal the sterile white room beyond.

She was somewhat surprised to find Domerin Lorcasf sitting voluntarily in his hospital bed. After her last encounter with him, she half expected the doctors would have to tie him down if they wanted to keep him here. Perhaps they had bribed him with the promise of replacement whiskey to put him on good behavior. Or perhaps he was simply in a good mood today; with Domerin, it was always hard to tell.

Step by terrifying step, Ves scooted and shuffled her way across the room, lining her feet up before she inched the next one forward, half-hoping Domerin would banish her before she made the half-dozen foot journey to the side of his bed. His eyes traced her journey until she came to rest beside his bed, though it wasn’t until he arched one midnight eyebrow that Ves realized she had been holding her breath.

“Uh… Hi,” she managed, plastering a false smile across her lips, hoping he wouldn’t notice the strain involved in holding it.

Domerin’s other eyebrow joined the first one. “Was the slow, creeping entrance really necessary? Or did you fall through some kind of slow-time anomaly?”

Blinking, Ves glanced back at the door. She thought time had simply slowed for her, allowing her to fret and agonize over each and every movement. But it seemed, instead, she had been taking her merry time.

“Oh…” Her smile faltered. “Well, I suppose I was giving you a chance to get rid of me, if you really wanted to.”

Domerin’s shoulders rose as his chest filled with air and Ves braced herself for the coming onslaught.

“If you have something to say, Ves, just say it.”

This wasn’t how she expected the conversation to go. But she recognized the expectant look on Domerin’s face, and knew better than to keep him waiting. She drew a deep breath, filling absolutely every inch of her lungs with air before she started speaking.

“I came to say I’m sorry. I know I already said that I’m sorry, but it didn’t feel like enough. I wanted you to know that I’m really sorry. Really, really sorry. Really, really, super-“

“I think I get the point,” Domerin interrupted, holding up one hand to stem the flow of her words.

“Sorry.” Ves hung her head.

“Listen…” And something about the way Domerin said that single word drew her eyes upward so that their gazes locked with each other. “You have nothing to be sorry for. You might think what happened to me and my company was your fault, but it wasn’t. You didn’t lift a finger. You didn’t pull a trigger. Your sister did all that, which makes her the one I blame.”

Ves swallowed hard. Her sister was the last person she wanted to think about at the moment, because thinking about Varah only complicated everything.

“You say that,” she countered, “but I know none of this would have happened if I hadn’t pointed the finger at you when she asked for information. I never would have said anything if I hadn’t believed we would be able to protect you.”

“The Immortals can’t control the entire universe,” Domerin replied. And if there was a hint of bitterness in his voice, Ves wasn’t going to fault him for it. Not after the man had lost his entire livelihood in the span of a few hours. “That’s a lesson I learned the hard way. We’d like to think we can make ourselves invulnerable, hide away from our problems until they fade away, but no matter how long you endure, life doesn’t work that way. Sooner or later, the fire comes back brighter and hotter than it was when it started.”

For a moment, all Ves could do was stare. She was relatively sure Domerin didn’t have any kind of telepathic powers, but it seemed like he had just reached into the depths of her mind and spoken the truth from which she was trying desperately to hide. In desperation, she struggled to say something – anything – to acknowledge the wisdom of his statement. All she managed, though, was a pitiful, “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

Domerin’s smile was dark and bitter, but somehow it suited him. “In other words, you might think you sold me up the river, but my own problems bit me in the ass and I should have seen it coming long before this. I hid for a long time. But I had to go home sooner or later. And as soon as I did, I was beyond the Immortals’ concern. You can keep trying to convince me you’re at fault, if you like, but it would save us both a lot of time if you gave up and accepted that I’m not angry at you.”

Why? Ves wanted to scream. It made no sense. She had started all this long before she pointed a finger in Domerin’s direction. She had started it when she blasted her way out of a cult prison and left her sister for dead. Had started it when she started dabbling with forces well beyond her understanding just because she was bored and sick of being dragged through the backwaters of the galaxy searching for some ancient thing she didn’t care about.

But knowing the question wouldn’t put so much as a dent in Domerin’s thick hide, she chose a different protest. “But Robin said-“

“I don’t care what Robin said. If she’s angry at you, that’s for the two of you to discuss. And I’ll thank you to leave me out of anything that involves my daughter’s temper.”

It was a match for her father’s, to be sure, but Ves bit her tongue instead of saying it out loud. She stood with her head bowed for several seconds while awkward silence crept around them like a thick fog rolling off the mountains. She heard Domerin inhale, probably so that he could finally dismiss her, so Ves let another jumble of words tumble from her lips.

“I stole enough information from that ship to piece together what happened to you. What they did… or tried to do.”

Now it was Domerin who turned his head, locking his eyes on some distant time and place, perhaps little more than a speck of dust, just to avoid answering.

“What I don’t understand is why you did the things you did.” Ves’s voice was soft, but the room was mostly silent, so she knew he could hear. “Why didn’t you try to lie? Or tell them something – anything- to get them to back off? Why were you so hell-bent on dying for silence?”

If she was honest, it was why she had chosen to name him in the first place. Aside from the fact that he had known little about the lead up to the confrontation with the Nekanth, he was just about as stubborn as they came. As far as she knew, he never changed his mind once he made it up. And if he had decided to keep quiet, he would take his secrets to the grave.

He nearly had. And that was what bothered her so much about the whole situation. He had been willing to throw himself into the cold embrace of oblivion. But why and for what?

Domerin didn’t answer right away. He spent several seconds flicking at one of the IV tubes protruding from his elbow. It was probably a bad idea and was probably going to stop the steady flow of liquid, but there was probably no sense in telling the man that when he obviously didn’t care. Eventually, he curled his lips and shrugged his shoulders as if to express that there had simply been no other course to follow.

“Everything changes when you have kids,” he said at last, and it was not the answer she had expected. “I used to gallivant around the galaxy doing whatever the fuck I wanted, never giving a shit what ended up happening to me. Until I met Robin and realized she’d spent the first decade of her life wondering who I was because I never had the good sense to check if my stupidity resulted in children.

“The moment she forgave me for that, the entire focus of my life changed. I still don’t really give a fuck what happens to me. I’ve lived three times as long as most people, and I’ve even managed to accomplish a few good things along the way. But I’ll be damned if I let something bad happen to my little girl, even if she’s no longer little.

“Some things are worth dying for. Robin has always been the top of that list. I guess a universe she can thrive in is just as worthwhile.”

A worthy warrior indeed, something whispered in the back of Ves’s head, dark and sibilant and not entirely unlike her own voice. And willing, it seems.

Stop that! she snarled silently in response. We didn’t go to all that trouble to save Domerin just to kill him the second we got home. Besides, the universe is going to need more men like him sooner or later, especially now that Shadow Hunter is gone.

She was relatively sure the pang of disappointment that followed didn’t belong to her, but it was unsettling enough to leave her on edge. How long before she did feel the urge to stick a knife in every person she knew? And how long could she avoid the temptation before it became too appealing to resist?

On second thought, it was best not to linger on such possibilities. She could already feel the darkness stirring, ready to offer another round of advice.

“So you did it for Robin?” she said instead, returning her focus to the spoken conversation.

“For Robin,” Domerin agreed, “and for her daughter. And the baby she’s carrying. And any future children she might have. And their children, and their grandchildren, and so on and so forth.”

“For family, you mean.” The words were so soft that Ves thought the ambient hospital sounds might drown them, but Domerin had better hearing than most.

“Yes, I suppose I do.” Something about the way he said it indicated that he thought of the situation in a more nuanced fashion. But even if he wanted to exclude someone from that particular list, the result was the same.

Domerin Lorcasf had been willing to lay down his life for the people he considered family. Had been willing to give everything up for the sake of blood connections. Or for love, or whatever bound a family into a tangible unit.

For a long time, Ves had considered the Immortals her family. She had been willing to march through the gates of whatever Hell lay in front of her just to make sure they stayed together. But now that she knew Varah was alive…

The priestess is your family. Your proper family. Your blood family.

This time she didn’t know which voice spoke the words; hers or the creature’s? Did it matter if the words were true?

Ves had never managed to do any of the things family was supposed to do for each other. Her foolishness had gotten her parents killed and her oversight had caused her to abandon her sister to the wolves.

No matter your connection to others, by your sister’s side is where you belong.

She was relatively certain she didn’t want to return to that particular fold, though she couldn’t deny the desire to live and work with her sister. Though Varah’s recent actions had likely dashed her hopes of bringing her sister here. Domerin had already made it clear he would kill the high priestess in a heartbeat if given half a chance, and she rather thought many of their teammates felt the same way.

Besides, Domerin wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. And neither was Varah.

“Did that answer your question?” Domerin’s voice startled Ves back to the moment.

“Yeah. Yeah, I think so.”

Domerin’s expression didn’t exactly tell her to skedaddle, but she saw no point in sticking around now that they’d finished talking. Especially now that the voice in the back of her head insisted on offering opinions on everything. Most of its opinions centered around the spilling of blood and guts. Somewhat ironically, it had little interest in fashion observation. But the incessant nagging about her sister and her duty to her family was impossible to ignore. Especially since she wasn’t sure it belonged to the voice. It might well belong to her and that was only going to complicate things further.

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