57. Giant, Clanking Brass Balls

Soundtrack: Onyx, Problem Child

The drug has worn off completely by the following morning, leaving Inglorion tired and a bit hungry, but otherwise unchanged. He feels no guilt, just relief at having gotten over heavy ground lightly. He resumes his normal routine of training, attending briefings, and smoking aimlessly in the company of slaves.

The Drow aren’t given to open expressions of grief or dismay. Even so, the aftermath of the murders seems curiously muted. The tunnel collapse creates the kind of excitement that occurs among Californians following a minor but perceptible earthquake: Throughout the city-state, the Drow swap stories, speculate that further collapses might be imminent, then, after a few days, go about their business.

Antigone’s murder isn’t discussed in Inglorion’s presence at all. He’s not certain when the bodies were discovered, or by whom. Following the murders, rooms and corridors fall silent when he enters. Even casual acquaintances choose not to sit near him during briefings. People don’t seem angry or afraid, but they are puzzled and wary. It’s as if they’re confined in a small room with a strange insect that moves quickly and unpredictably. They’re backing away until they understand what makes him bite. 

In Drow terms, Inglorion’s psychology is strange to the point of incoherence. His peers call him batshit crazy more or less to his face, but they also find him inexplicably gentle: He doesn’t beat slaves and lacks enthusiasm about torturing captives. The Drow aren’t surprised that he could kill two armed Drow — he’s considered to be brutishly strong — but they are taken aback that he did it brazenly, and apparently with little motive. The detail of the cigarette butt impresses them tremendously. Behind his back they marvel, He stood over their corpses and smoked a cigarette, and put it out in their blood. Actually, he was stunned, horrified and half-mad from the visions he’d just had. He smoked a cigarette because he was shaking so badly he could hardly stand.

This doesn’t make sense to the Drow. Since they’re physically tiny, they typically specialize in poison, ranged attacks and ambush. There is a counter-tradition, found primarily among the Xyrec and Theates, that terrorizes the enemy by inflicting hyperbolic violence. The Xialo massacre is an excellent example: When Philomela was imprisoned and tortured, she retaliated by ordering that 36 gray elvish settlers be tortured to death. Given a week or so to consider, Inglorion’s Theates peers decide that the cigarette butt and calling cards are signs that he has giant, clanking brass balls, and is not to be fucked with. In fact, he planned the murders poorly, trembled with religious terror throughout, unnecessarily destroyed a piece of public infrastructure, and failed to take reasonable precautions to conceal his actions.

After a few days of wary silence, however, public opinion settles, and Inglorion’s peers begin to congregate around him. Antigone’s old allies approach him with friendly offers of service. He accepts some of them graciously and spurns others, following instinct, whim, or Ajax’s advice. Inglorion realizes he’s won despite himself.

Even before he meets with the Duchess, Clytemnestra offers Inglorion Antigone’s slaves, simply saying, “They’re yours by right.” He’s not eager to add them to his little household. Theo’s mind seems imprecise at best — he can’t draw a map or follow simple instructions. Thea has consistently treated Inglorion with hostility and suspicion, though she may simply have an unpleasant personality. Hector was persuaded with little difficulty to leave Antigone unprotected, an unfortunate tendency in a bodyguard. On the other hand, all three presumably have some loyalty to Inglorion. He accepts them, figuring that he needs to learn how to manage, and they’re a representative set of subordinates.

When it occurs, the meeting with Philomela is short, almost perfunctory. She’s unconcerned about the tunnel collapse — slaves will fix it — but seems disconcerted by how quickly he’s progressed.

Because she doesn’t volunteer it, he asks, “Your Grace, what’s the next trial?” 

Philomela stares at him for a moment in frowning silence. She’s grappling with a problem: If he actually becomes Marquis Theates, she’ll be stuck with a willful and unpredictable heir.

Finally she says, “The timing will be different. You’ll know once it’s underway.”

One thought on “57. Giant, Clanking Brass Balls

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s