So what to do now? That is surely the question that must arise.
From one Lord of Darkness to another. One Serein handyman to another. From one Serein slave to another.
I could rip his mind apart just as easily as you would break the wing of a flying bird. Yet, this man was me.
“Thelein,” I said to him and meant it, “speak to me. They will not come to your rescue.”
He knew it well enough.
He knew well enough that we were both tools to them, but he would not speak to me nor let me in. In his mind, I was still the butcher and he was still the politician.
He was still as blamelessly white as the freshest winter virgin.
It is an absolute fact that the Theleins are not quite sane and so I summoned my lady to the link.
She joined me willingly enough, and together, we effortlessly dove into the man’s moments as though they simply were our own.
He/she/I ... We are sitting in his office, routinely engaged in the signing of a great sheaf of documents and with our mind on a minor succession problem. The king wanted the last say in the choice of the candidate for this particular office and it had to be presented in such a way, with candidates carefully chosen to be sure the one that we desired and decided to be the right one, would end up being the only possible logical choice.
The leaded windows overlook the great courtyard of Pertineri Palace. One is slightly ajar, and a breeze ruffles the edges of the papers that we have already signed.
It is then that the White Serein simply appear in the room, a bright white shine behind us that causes the skin to goose bump instantly and to turn sharply around.
There are three of them, hovering in midair, sparking major distortions a long way in spite the brightness of the day, and a multifold voice stands inside our head:
There has been a change. You are called upon to serve the High Council of Serein.
We are stunned and speechless. Not in many generations had White Serein addressed one of our family this directly; orders were usually brought by Blue Serein who would be messengers and would speak in words as men do amongst themselves.
The voice continues.
There is great change. This is a time for change. In the East, a new king will arise to take the ruling of the kingdoms. It is your charge to make sure that the new king will succeed and take the throne.
Our mind is racing wildly and our heart is beating high. We are unsure as to how the correct form of response or address is to be made and struggle within ourselves to come to reason but the voice comes just one more time:
Corranor of Thelein, in the Name of the High Council of Serein, you have thus been tasked.
A brand was laid upon us then and we knew we would not be able to break the order of silence on the subject, not now nor ever.
The room stood empty in an instant, and for an instant we were unsure of our own minds and senses lest they had played a strange trick upon us.
Yet there is a message that arrives within the hour.
Lord Trant had taken arms against his neighbouring kingdoms.
I dropped from the link with Thelein yet kept my counsel with my lady. She was calm enough to remind me that here was another Thelein who found himself very much on the losing side, and once again found that his obedience to orders was leading directly to his own downfall.
I sometimes wondered how she would know when to be so rational, and when to go insane with her emotional ravings. In truth, she was correct. This man, hanging here before us in his chains, had followed orders he could have done nothing to counteract or contravene. He had had no free will in the matter. It was, in a way, a high injustice that his family name was ever more besmirched with the traitor’s brand, from now and until the songs they were already singing in the streets about Thelein the Traitor who had condemned twenty thousand men to die had faded from man’s memories.
For a single instance, I felt a connection with the man, a shared understanding of the enormity of his own downfall and the bitterness at his impotence to do a single thing about it. For a single moment, I felt a strange sensation that made me look at him afresh.
Compassion, Lucian. That is what its called, send my lady.
I brushed her off and focussed on the man before me with volition.
“Die well, Thelein,” I said to him and watched his eyes widen in surprise, heard his thoughts of astonishment that I had not come to take my revenge for his part in my torture, then I shut him out and turned to my lady.
“Is there anything you would have me do or say to this man?” I enquired of her, and she, pale and barely contained as she was, shook her head for a moment but send instead, Could you leave me with him for a moment? (and let me/him be shielded in privacy?)
I wondered about her request but of course, it was her journey here this day and with a brief acknowledgement and offer of assistance if required, I left the cell and had the door shut behind them both.
I put the thought as what she would want with him from my mind, and rather than standing in the dismal passage waiting for her, I had the headman conduct me to Thoran of Thelein instead and tasked him to keep a close lookout for my lady.
His bearing and posture was much like that of his uncle, but his rage at me was still in place and he struggled to his feet immediately on my appearance, threw himself into the full range of his chains and tried to spit at me.
I went into his mind and for what reason, I do not know, replayed to him my memories of how my lady, the one he had so shamefully abused, had pleaded on his behalf in the morning room, and how she had tried to heal him on the road against my orders and command.
It was interesting to observe the man’s struggle with the information, his resistance to it and his burning desire to have it be false, a trick of mind and magic to confuse him and to take away from the rage he so sorely needed to sustain himself in these few last dark hours of his miserable existence.
I shook my head.
There was no desire in me to wish him a good death like I had given his uncle, a man at least for one whom could have a measure of respect. There was no desire for vengeance upon him, either, and I wondered why this should be. He had caused me immense pain and distress, had taken from me more than he would ever understand and yet I could find no fire or even ice inside me that would have fuelled any kind of action.
I stared at him hard, smelled his fear and his hatred, and tried to regain a sense of what I should be experiencing, yet there was nothing.
He was nothing to me.
I don’t know how it was that I could not just let that sensation go nor why it troubled me so profoundly. I stood for a moment longer, struggling with my inability to find a single strand of revenge or retribution when there were voices in the corridor and I knew my lady had finished her dealings with the other Thelein.
I judged that meeting this one would cause her much distress and that she might require my presence to get her through the door, so I stooped beneath the archway and met her half way.
She was pale but steadier in herself and only reached for my hand this time.
Lucian, I cannot reconcile these men here, here in this place, with their crimes, she sent to me in tired non-understanding; displaying the exact same problem that I was experiencing too. It occurred to me that we were caught in a similar spell, that it might have been her reactions I was mirroring and that I could not find my own because of it.
We would see.
We would see how she responded face to face with her rapist.