21. That Cruel and Masterful Man

Soundtrack: Husker Du, Dead Set on Destruction

Over the week that follows, Inglorion feels a persistent sense of shame. This is the first time he’s ever regretted a sex act, and he’s not certain why it bothers him. He doesn’t confess it, any more than he’s confessed the rest of his unchastity, but he’s disturbed by memories of his final months in Liamelia, of Tereus’ brutality, the casual tyranny he exercised over anyone subordinate to him.

When Inglorion thinks of why he and Sieia ran away, he thinks of Tereus’ cruelty to his wife, Lavinia, how it frightened Sieia to see her mother scratched, bruised, cowed before his anger. There were other things, though, and Inglorion remembers them now. By Inglorion’s late teens, Tereus was infamous for lashing out at everyone around him. When a parlormaid didn’t clean out the library fireplace to his satisfaction, he struck her across the face, forced her to get on her knees and scrub it out while he watched, cursing and dealing out occasional kicks. That girl was homely. If Tereus found a female servant attractive, he would grab her, corner her, expose himself to her — that’s what shocked Claudia all those years ago, before Sieia first ran away.

Male servants had reason to fear him, as well. He came home drunk once after a bad day’s hunting and cut a groom across the face with his riding crop, apparently out of frustration that he hadn’t gotten a fox. His valet left the family’s service abruptly after decades, exhausted and ashamed that he had absorbed years of curses and blows. Early on, Inglorion decided that if his father ever struck him, he would defend himself in the moment or seek vengeance later. The case never came up, either because his duties as a footman kept him out of the line of fire, or because Inglorion was young, strong and infamously hot-tempered himself. 

Inglorion remembers now in a visceral way the knot in his stomach, the sensation of choking with unexpressed, righteous anger, the persistent, burning shame he felt at his father’s conduct. Though the relationship was never discussed, it was plain to see: not just his features, but his gestures, gaze and voice, and the fire that animated both father and son. It’s always been there, his connection to that cruel, masterful man. Now it feels very close — not just his outward beauty and charm, but his fiery, willful temperament, impatient of restraint, easily angered. Tereus’s arrogance, his conviction that his brilliance entitled him to command and punish those around him. 

This is what Inglorion fears in himself: his father’s mix of genius and brutality. There’s still something hidden, lingering on the edge of memory. He’s choked, contorted with shame, and he does not know why.

After the incident with Camilla, Lucius Junius Brutus senses Inglorion’s guilt and shame. Before, Inglorion was unapologetically self-willed. He complied with Lucius’s orders when he chose, and resisted or ignored them when he did not choose. Like any skilled master, Lucius can sense vulnerability in a disciple. Though he does not know the cause, he feels that Inglorion’s will is wavering, and that he’s questioning his own judgment. Lucius proceeds as he always does, alternating harsh criticism with occasional praise, and the promise of spiritual progress and eventual salvation. Daily, he points out Inglorion’s failures of temper and judgment; each fresh outburst of anger or enthusiasm brings another round of sober criticism. As he redoubles his focus on Inglorion’s small failures, Inglorion’s temper rises. He’s in a constant state of irritable anxiety. To Inglorion’s shock, he begins to lose some of his precision of eye. He misses bow shots he should make, and blows a drill with throwing daggers entirely. He struggles to study, and feels persistently tired and nauseated. 

Inglorion agreed early on to give up his private devotions. Worship is daily and communal, and provides absolutely no solace. Training has become a source of humiliation and frustration. Inglorion is left with one source of comfort: sex. Perversely, then, he bangs Camilla whenever he can slip away, and takes to picking up girls in taverns and dance halls. He feels Artemisia’s absence terribly — not just the powerful release he gets from fucking her, but the companionship. She’s calm, wise, kind, tolerant. He wishes he could talk to her now, tell her what he’s thinking and feeling. 

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