25. Beautiful, Brilliant, Half-Mad and Entirely Reckless

Soundtrack: Public Enemy, Megablast

Now that he is deprived of Artemisia’s company, Inglorion’s anxiety and misery deepen, and nothing soothes his physical and spiritual discomfort. He records the stages of his dissolution in his journal. 

July 30, 17—

Nothing calms me. Not sex, or prayer or combat. I cannot eat, and trance eludes me. Looking back, I’ve been complaining of this for weeks now. I find myself looking to Camilla, and wondering if physical pain would calm me. I find myself hoping to be injured, so far to no avail. I know this is wrong and foolish, but I long so desperately for relief —

August 2, 17—

The tension continues to rise within me. Previously it would dissipate in combat or sex or prayer and fasting. Now I cannot be calm, even for a moment. I feel that I am slipping, and I don’t know how to arrest my fall. 

I know that this is bad for me. I know that Lucius’s instruction is making me worse, not better. I don’t understand how this can be true, but I know that it is. I have lost everything that made me happy: Artemisia’s companionship and care; my prowess in battle; the pleasure of learning. My God is absent from me, which creates inexpressible pain.

I came here because I knew I needed an education. I did not want to be a casual mercenary for the rest of my life. I feel that my gifts are wasted, and my vices are exaggerated, magnified. It reminds me of working in the stables when I was very young. Then and now I can do no right, or at least no right that anyone can recognize. It is all wrong, and is hurting me, but I don’t know what else to do, or where to go.

August 4, 17—

I bitterly regret taking Sieia back to Liamelia. I am nothing without her faith in me, and her reliance on my love and care.

August 5, 17—

I no longer care whether I am admitted to a military academy, or commissioned as an officer. My one desire is for calm and relief from pain.

Inglorion has never hidden his journal. Since he arrived in Amakir, he has written in Common rather than High Elvish, since he hoped to gain fluency in the former. Inglorion cannot hide his misery, but he flatly refuses to discuss it with Lucia, merely saying that he’s disappointed in his progress. Finally, in desperation, Lucia enters his room looking for clues, and finds his journal next to the bed. Inglorion returns from class that day, exhausted and discouraged, and finds Lucia sitting on his bed, his journal open before her, tears running down her face. 

For a long moment, they’re both speechless. She does not understand the terrible things she’s read, and she cannot reconcile them with his beloved face. Finally, he unbuckles his sword belt and hangs it over the bedpost. He sits down next to her, takes her hand, looks into her stricken face. “I’m sorry, Lucia,” he says. 

“Inglorion,” she says, then stops, choked with fresh tears.

“Now you know me.”

She bursts out, “But why? Why did you do those things? That terrible woman —”

“Which one?”

“The rich one, with the dead husband. How could you?”

He says dryly, “That part came easily.” Then, more earnestly, “Lucia, I don’t know why. I don’t understand anything that happened.”

“What did I do wrong? What must I do? I don’t know how to help you!”

For the first time in weeks, Inglorion feels a measure of clarity. “Lucia, I know you’re distressed. Listen carefully, and please believe me when I say this: You’ve done nothing wrong. There’s nothing you can do. I told you that I couldn’t marry you, and that you didn’t know me. Now you see how true that is.”

“There must be something — I can’t stand to think that you’re so entirely lost — that —” she breaks off.

“No one is ever entirely lost. I don’t know what’s to be done, but I know you’re not to blame, and that you can’t fix it. This is between me and my God.”

“What will you do?”

His eyes drop. He looks at their hands, intertwined on the quilt between them. “I will make a full confession to your father, and I will leave here. I can’t stay.”

She sobs bitterly. “Please don’t go. What will you do? Where will you go?”

Inglorion looks back up, into her dark eyes. To her horror, he smiles, winks, and says, “I think you know what I’ll do, my dear. I’ll find a willing partner, and I’ll fuck her until the world falls away. Then I’ll light a votive and say my prayers, and fall into trance.”

His words appall her — she can hardly make sense of them. She’s confused by the invitation in his smile and the strange, confiding nature of his gaze. She wishes she could follow him into exile.

He sees that she’s still enthralled. He holds her gaze, kisses the back of her hand, says, “It’s true, you know. Forget me if you can, darling.”

He seeks out Lucius Junius Brutus, saying that he must confess. “I don’t know what level of detail you require,” he says, as he studies the ugly little wool carpet. He sets the latch key on the desk. Then, looking full into Lucius’s face, he begins. “I’ve been very unchaste for a very long time. Do you know, I buggered a loose widow the day I arrived here? And it only got worse from there.”

Inglorion’s heart is light as he packs up his few possessions, straps on his sword belt, longbow and quiver, and steps out into the cobbled alley. He suspects that this is not how confession is meant to work, but he’s relieved and grateful nonetheless.

It’s late afternoon. Soon the sun will go down, and he’ll be alone with the soothing glow of the stars and new moon. He fishes the mosaic ring from his cloak pocket, slides it onto his right hand, and admires the likeness of Alexander: beautiful, brilliant, half-mad, entirely reckless. He feels a piercing, unearned joy, a sweet intoxication, as he turns to face the unknown.

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