Masks

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Review Chain

Cecili reviews her life and her decisions as she tries to move forward.

This is a short story I wrote for a contest in the Review Chain.

Masks

By Evan Drake

© 2020, Evan Drake, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Cecili’s tail flattened against her leg as she pulled her knife from the hound’s chest. His body had long gone limp, but his eyes still held a look of blame and rage. Turning away, she wiped the blade on the hound’s trousers then sheathed it.

 

Let that be a lesson to the rest of you,” she said to the rest of the crew. The steadiness of her voice was surprising despite how stiffly she held herself to hide her shaking. “I’m not running a group of mindless cutthroats. When I say no bloodshed, I mean it. Now clean this mess up and get back to your tasks.”

 

The others scrambled to follow her orders, no one meeting her gaze. She waited a few moments before storming off to her room, slammed the door for good measure, and then hurried to the basin on the far side of the room. The cold water was a welcome change to the warm blood. She cursed her dark brown coat for making it that much harder to Just like her ide any unconscious movements.

 

Hopefully no one noticed my nervousness.

 

Hey, you good?” Emeral asked.

 

Cecili’s ears raised at the sudden appearance of her lieutenant but chose to let the intrusion slide knowing it was her own distraction that caused it. She held her tail stiffly against her side to hide the desire to wag it as the grey wolf stroked her arm. Despite being a hound, Cecili was the larger of the two, a fact she was reminded of seeing Emeral’s thin paw on her much wider forearm. “Who else knows you’re here?” Cecili asked.

 

She cursed her reaction. All because she couldn't let word get out about them. The risk of the others thinking she played favorites was too great. She scrubbed her paws harder.

 

Nobody,” Emeral said. “Told them I was gonna take a walk. Plus, they’re busy finding a good ditch to dump Brendor in.”

 

A loyal crew-member being left to rot in a ditch because he made one mistake and killed someone I told him not to. Do his other actions mean anything?

 

She shook off her lover’s touch and grabbed the towel on the stand. “Would it not be easier to simply burn him?” The words left a bad taste in her mouth.

 

He brought it on himself.”

 

That’s not what I asked.”

 

Emeral folded her arms across her chest, her ears peeling backward. “It would, but he don’t deserve a proper sending.”

 

Cecili prayed her ears flattening against her head would be taken as irritation instead of shame. The bile in the back of her throat built up. Regardless, she swallowed and quickly relaxed. Regret wasn’t a trait of a leader.

 

All of these poor bastards would gladly follow me unto death, but how many of them would remain should they learn how I truly feel about this life?

 

She wasn’t here out of desire, but necessity. Join a crew of highway bandits, or starve, or worse. Her ascension to leader was unintentional, and she never desired it. She only took the mantle because she feared their reaction should she refuse. And they followed her without hesitation. Four long years of running the crew, and not one of them knew their survival was not through brave leadership or smart decisions but fear of the worst possible outcome. The rewards and consequences weighed on a scale. It was the same reason why they let their victims go. Not out of sport or show of power but because she hated the bloodshed and regretted each life taken so they could live a lavish lifestyle.

 

She snorted and threw the towel onto the stand. Then she started washing her paws again because her fingers still felt sticky. “All the same, he used to be one of us, and he should be treated as such. He wasn’t a traitor; he just wasn’t a good fit.”

 

How many more must a sacrifice just for the sake of keeping up appearances?How long must I play this game?

 

After scrubbing her paws raw, she turned around. It was surprising to see Emeral studying her. Cecili’s defenses weakened under her gaze, but she clenched her jaw to harden her face and kept her ears raised and tail slack.

 

Eventually, Emeral nodded then headed for the bed. “Fair enough.”

 

Her body followed on its own. Even as she knew what was happening, even as she feared how it could end, she followed. Refusal would be worse; refusal meant revealing everything she feared and hated. “What about--?”

 

Screw the others. Right now, just think about us.”

 

Whether Emeral knew the truth or not, she couldn’t tell, but it was enough that it went unspoken. Soon, she forgot about everything else.

 

 


Submitted: September 30, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Evan Drake. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

Ann Sepino

Cecili is the type of character I love to read about: has a strong personality and potential for character development, and is dealing with a moral/ethical conflict. The world-building here seems interesting too.

Good luck on the review chain contest! :)

Wed, September 30th, 2020 2:34am

Author
Reply

Thanks! Glad you like her. I actually have a longer story featuring this character I hope to post soon.

Tue, September 29th, 2020 7:54pm

A. K.Taylor

Good read. And interesting setup to your story to start. Just wanted to note one little spacing issue you had with a couple of words near the beginning, though. I highlighted it for you. And good luck with the contest, there's a few good stories like yours in the bunch. I've read quite a number so far.

Thu, October 1st, 2020 3:41am

Author
Reply

Thanks a lot! Glad you enjoyed it. I'll keep an eye out for that spacing thing in the future. Copy/paste tends to cause problems.

Wed, September 30th, 2020 8:48pm

XCulletto

Fri, October 2nd, 2020 1:01am

XCulletto

I like the interjections of thought between the action to show two sides of the story. Seema like a lot of thought has gone into these characters!

Fri, October 2nd, 2020 1:02am

Author
Reply

Thanks! Cecili is a part of a larger story I haven't posted here yet so I've had some time to develop her.

Thu, October 1st, 2020 6:30pm

Greythereadaholic

This is interesting with the moral conflict Cecili faces, and I wish there was a little more insight into how she got involved with highway bandits and rose to a powerful position despite her hatred of it. (I'm guessing this is part of a larger story? Because I'm very curious about the characters and their unique world.) Only small critique would be to keep an eye on typos because I noticed a few throughout the piece, so just pay attention to those when you edit.

Fri, October 2nd, 2020 11:27pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for the feedback! This is a part of a larger story that I'm in the middle of working on. In fact there's an entire series planned to take place in this universe.

Fri, October 2nd, 2020 5:31pm

Archia

I really enjoyed your story and Cecili's character. She seems very strong but also very frightened. I think you showed that juxtaposition really well and how insider her thoughts and feelings are different to how she needs to portray herself. I feel like if you wanted you could easily write more with this, it's got the sense that it could be part of something bigger.

Wed, October 7th, 2020 12:19am

Author
Reply

Thanks! Glad you liked it! Everyone says it feels like it's part of something larger. It actually is. I have several stories written in another fantasy universe that I haven't posted to Booksie yet.

Tue, October 6th, 2020 6:03pm

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