Caught Between Worlds
Dorion - Justice Measured in Blood
Dorian walked through the harsh sunlight of a hazy Cillimar morning. He was happy that his artifact was smoked glasses this day, for the massive party the night before had left him bleary and tattered around the edges. His brief acting career had not been that stellar by his measure, but on the up side it had possessed a rather impressive number of action scenes. The wrap party was already a thing of legend, and as he walked somewhat unsteadily down the street he passed a fruit vendor humming “The Sixfold Survivors,” the song that had already been written about his friend’s success in surviving the mortescurri, or murder play.
This morning had left him in dire need of a couple key items from his old room, not the least of which was a change of fresh clothing. None of the others had awakened so he’d set out by himself across town to gather up his belongings and move to the much more impressive accommodations atop the Gilded Lily casino.
The morning sounds of Cillimar swirled around him. These sounds had previously perplexed or startled him, but now he felt like he was almost a native to this strange place. They were sounds of merchants hawking their wares, livestock bleating, the late night drinkers turning it into an early morning, and – a scream – the occasional alleyway mugging.
If there is one thing that this city’s natives were good at, it was turning a deaf ear and the blind eye to the misfortunes of others. The sounds of a struggle from the nearby alleyway didn’t elicit even a blink or head turn from the pedestrians who moved around Dorian, even though they were clearly audible from his position. He probably should just let it go. This city certainly had a large share of troubles, more so than most. It would be so much easier just to head on by, gather up his things, and return to the casino’s hotel room.
Of course he wasn’t going to do that.
When Dorian entered the alleyway it took a moment to adjust to the dim light. There were sounds of a weak struggle and an occasional whimper from a short distance ahead. Groggily squinting through haze, he saw a small circle of teens that were surrounding a younger boy. None of them could have been more than 16 years old. There seemed to be a bit of a dust up about a lost object.
“You’re not fooling anyone,” hissed one the attackers, a baby-faced boy with acne scars and peasant clothes. “Tell us where you hid it!”
“Baltis came to your place to get it. Next thing we know, yer gone and he’s got a second smile south of his first,” snarled the second, glaring through a mass of greasy black hair.
The third assailant was silent but much larger than the others, a future linebacker.
The target of their wrath was a boy who couldn’t have been older than 12. His dirty blonde hair was sweat stuck against his forehead, blood oozed out of his nose, and he seemed trying to fold himself into nothingness as he was pinned against the rough brick wall of the alleyway.
“I swear, I didn’t take it! I don’t know what happened to your friend!” begged the skinny boy, his voice quivering in terror. His eyes darted about, like a frightened rabbit.
A chuckle. Dorian saw a boy in his early 20s peel himself off the opposite wall of the alley where he had been leaning. He flicked a smoking a cigarette into the trash. The three assailants who were holding the young man looked in unison to him. His short brown hair was spiked, his eyebrow and ears were pierced, and his lips sneered as he regarded the terrified child in front of him.
“That’s not what Mr. Shakes says. He says you were the last one with it. You had it, you saw Baltis coming and you cut him,” said the older boy in a quiet voice that hummed with potential threat.
The victim against the wall turned even paler. “I swear I don’t have it. I left the house before any of that happened! Oh Powers, you have to believe me!”
The leader smiled a jagged, gap-toothed smile. “Oh I’m sure with a little persuasion you’ll remember where it was.” The boys surrounding their target cracked their knuckles in anticipation, a display that was disrupted by the fact that they winced while doing it.
Dorian rolled his eyes. “I really don’t have the patience for this,” he muttered. They hadn’t bothered to secure the entryways into the alley, and still hadn’t noticed him. This was amateur hour. He threw a rock in an arc over their heads. It landed with a clatter.
“What was that!” snarled the leader. As the toughs turned to face the sound, Dorion took several quick strides up to them and then pulled the young boy out of the circle.
“Yoink!” he said.
They all turned to face him, the three junior members of the gang reacting with shock while their leader sneered.
“Idiots! Who is this? Get him!”
Daggers were pulled, but Dorion already had nearly three feet of steel in his hands, forgoing his kukri in order to have the bastard sword make a stronger statement.
“Greetings boys,” he drawled. “I’m the hall monitor here, and I think you all need to get back to class.”
The boys were unnerved and did not advance. Mr. Piercings glared and spat “This isn’t your concern, berk. We just want what’s ours, and some blood to match blood.”
The blond boy clung to Dorion’s arm, in tears. “I swear I didn’t do anything, mister! Please, you have to believe me!”
As the nerves behind his eyes began to pulse in time with his heartbeat, his adrenaline temporarily making his headache worse, Dorion considered his options. Jaxson or Amethyst could probably negotiate a peace here. So could James, though he wouldn’t have come down here in the first place. Raith would have done something sneakier and not been caught, and Amara would have just chased the punks off with her giant-ass dog. Most of his options ended up in blood.
He reached out and ran his thumb under the blubbering boy’s nose, then smeared a line of red down the sword’s blade. On cue, the dark crimson light soaked the blade as a familiar but still sinister voice echoed down the alleyway:
“Greeting, master. Who are we going to kill today?”
“See this?” he asked the slack-jawed boys in front of him. “It’s a magic blade, powered by the blood of the innocent. So the kid here, whose blood I just used, qualifies as innocent. Now, this may not mean he’s never stolen anything, looked at a pretty girl the wrong way, or wished bad things on a group of morons who beat on him in an alleyway, but it sure as hell means he didn’t kill anyone. I’m guessing that means he didn’t take your whatever as well.”
“It…It’s just a trick,” said Mr. Piercings, trying to convince both himself and the other three. “We can take him.”
“Really? You really want to do this?” said Dorion incredulously. “Even if I’m lying about that, which I’m not-“
“He isn’t,” chimed in The Sword, making everyone except Dorion jump.
“-you’re going to attack a guy who already got the jump on you, with a magic sword that not only glows like some fucking gateway to the deepest level of Hell, but also talks. Ok, I could use the exercise, and The Blade of Ultimate Evil here needs its morning souls or it gets really cranky.”
The punks were already halfway down the alley, and never looked back.
Dorion turned around, but the blond boy was also gone. He sighed again.
He looked at The Sword. “Sorry big fella, no action right now. Just using you to prove a point. Um, I’m going to wait here until you go back to sleep, or whatever. I don’t want people on the street to think I’m Darth Vader or anything.”
The Sword was silent. Almost awkwardly so. Dorion wasn’t certain what else to do, and then it spoke.
“You are…a very interesting man, Dorion Hillot. I have had many masters. Most have soaked me in the blood of the innocent during campaigns of terror or violence designed to increase their own personal power. Others have used innocent blood to power me in quests of righteous vengeance and in pursuit of justice. Very few have ever…been hesitant to use me. Have just held me in reserve most of the time, as you have.
“It’s very…restful. In addition, when you leave here, I can touch the land that you inhabit through your mind. It is a place that is far more peaceful than here, where men rarely kill each other, and law rules over feuds and rampages, and justice is not measured in blood.
“As I have said before, I am a tool, nothing more. I try to avoid passing judgment on, or having preferences for, this or that master.
“You have made that very difficult.”
“Ur, sorry?” was all Dorion could think to say.
“Don’t be,” was the response. And then The Sword was silent.
Back to Vignettes