39. Androktasiai

Soundtrack: Marilyn Manson, Lunchbox (Dead to the World)

Once he’s got Ajax safely stowed in a dockside inn in Liamelia, Inglorion begins his research by finding Collatinus. He figures that at the very least, the old man can give him the latest news and provide details about his later childhood and adolescence. He finds Collatinus sitting in his own cottage garden, mending tools. Inglorion walks up with a smile and a little wave. Collatinus seems pleased in his quiet, gruff fashion.

Collatinus brings a second chair out for Inglorion and asks, “What brings you back here?”

“I have information to gather, and I thought you could help me. What’s news? I haven’t seen Lady Sieia yet.”

“She’s become engaged to Xardic Ceralac. It’s thought to be a good match. His family is out of Amakir, but they’ve done well for themselves in Liamelia. Penelope is his sister, and his father has been mayor here for 10 years. Xardic is poised to succeed him. You’ll want to tread lightly there. Xardic is no friend of the Drow. He made his political reputation by calling for all-out war after the raid on Xialo.” He says all of this with the air of a man refraining from comment.

“Good to know. Is Marcus going to set his hounds on me?”

“Nothing like that. But if you’ve developed deeper connections with your people, I’d keep that to yourself. The best story is that you’ve returned from adventuring abroad.”

“That’s the story I’ll put about, then. There’s no need for Lady Sieia to know differently.” Inglorion cocks his head at Collatinus. “You look well, or at least the same.”

Collatinus gives a snort and a half-smile. “That’s true enough. What information do you need from me?”

“I’m trying to reconstruct some family history, or personal history, rather, from my early childhood. I don’t remember anything before I was 10 or 12.”

“What do you need to know?”

Inglorion extends his hands towards Collatinus. “I’ve had these scars as long as I can remember. Do you know how I got them?”

They both examine his wrists and forearms. The scarring is extensive, but so faded that a casual observer wouldn’t notice. A few are deeper, and they draw attention to the rest. 

“You don’t remember?” Collatinus asks.

“Not at all. That’s why I’m asking.”

“You did it.”

“Pardon me?” Inglorion says blankly.

“I don’t know for certain about all of them,” Collatinus says slowly, “but when you came here from the stables, you were already in the habit. You had temper fits. You attacked other children, I think because they bullied you, or some of them did. When you were in that state, you scratched or cut yourself until you bled, or until someone restrained you.” 

Inglorion has no idea how to respond to this. It seems impossible, but he has no reason to think Collatinus is lying or mistaken. 

“You don’t remember that?” asks Collatinus.

“Not at all. I had no idea.”

“What do you remember?”

“Nothing. Or, rather, I remember what you’ve told me about that time. But I don’t have any memories of being that young, or doing those things.”

They’re both silent for a moment. Inglorion is trying to understand what he’s being told. “I did it myself but I have no memory of it” doesn’t seem likely to satisfy the Duchess. Finally he says, “What else can you tell me about that time?”

“I don’t know everything,” Collatinus says, “and I don’t know how much you’ve been told.”

“Nothing, apparently.”

“Tereus was ordered to take care of you. They didn’t want to keep you in the orphanage and pay for your upbringing when your father was alive and wealthy in Liamelia. When you came onto the estate, you were assigned to work in the stables, but couldn’t. The horses reacted badly to you, and the head groom, James — well, I imagine he’s the reason you felt you were always in disgrace.”

Inglorion winces. “I remember him. He hated me, and of course the coachman and the other grooms followed his lead.”

He continues, in a carefully neutral tone. “You got into fights constantly, and you didn’t just use your fists. You bit James badly on the face, and went after one of the under-grooms with a hoof-pick. I believed, and still believe, that you were defending yourself. You were tiny, and only six or seven years old. The others were all older, and more — I don’t know, they understood things better than you did. The facts of life. They knew you were Tereus’ son. They picked on you for that, and for being Drow.”

“How did I end up here, with you?”

“It was after you attacked that kid with the pick. They couldn’t control you . You were….” He trails off.

Inglorion says wryly, “Androktasiai?”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s a Drow word. It literally means ‘eager to die,’ but it’s more like, ‘happy to die as long as you can take your enemies with you.’ What we would call batshit crazy.”

“Yeah, that describes it. What was the Drow word again?”

Androktasiai. I find it comes in handy.”

“Anyway, they thought you’d be better off somewhere quiet, and with a bachelor rather than a family. They thought you needed discipline, and that I could provide it, since I’d been a noncommissioned officer in the army. So they just brought you over one day. I think it was the housekeeper. Tereus was gone at the time, and Lavinia wouldn’t have gotten involved. I was told that you were unmanageable, and that I was to make you useful on the estate.”

“Was I?”

“After a time. I didn’t know what to make of you at first.  You were a very troubled child. You wouldn’t talk, or couldn’t. Even after you started talking, it was like you didn’t understand what happened or why.”

“I don’t know why I don’t remember. I know you were kind to me, and that I was tremendously relieved. I was always afraid and in pain and disgrace, and that changed when I came here.” Inglorion pauses, then says shyly, “You were the only person who tried to understand, who didn’t just hate me on sight.”

Collatinus shrugs, says, “I was going on instinct. I figured, if you were that frightened and angry, there must be a reason. But, yeah, when you got into a state, you would do that to yourself. I’m not sure whether anyone else hurt you. I think they did, but I don’t know. I never knew why you did it. It was shocking. Maybe that’s why you did it — because it scared the others, and they were your enemies.”

“I imagine so,” says Inglorion. “I seems to fit. I don’t really know.” He looks up at Collatinus. “I didn’t know how much I owed you. I guess assumed I was a delightful child from the start.”

“You were good,” says Collatinus earnestly. “You were very serious, and you wanted very much to be good. You just didn’t know how. I knew you were afraid of them. I could feel it. They used to seek you out here. They always came in numbers, never alone. I remember you shaking with fear and hatred. You brought out some kind of mob instinct in them. Hurting yourself — being fearless and reckless — maybe how you coped with it, and drove them away.”

After this, Inglorion and Collatinus talk of other things — estate gossip, local news. Collatinus assures Inglorion that Sieia misses him, and that she will be delighted to see her older brother even amid the gaiety surrounding her engagement. Through it all, Inglorion feels distracted and sad. It hurts to think of his much-younger self — a child he can’t remember — feeling so hunted and desperate.

What Collatinus has told him is disturbing, but it rings true. It explains the anxiety and shame he feels about the marks; it fits with his lifelong recklessness, and with how he approached his first trial in the Underdark. Far from feeling alien, the violent, disturbed child that Collatinus describes feels uncomfortably close and familiar.

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