"What's his name?"
"He has none."
"What a shame. But alas, also a blessing; no soul will mourn the loss of their child."
A hooded man with paper skin and knowing eyes cradled the young boy against his chest, soothing its quiet cries. The man placed the child on the icy, cobblestone street, kneeling down beside him, then reached down and gently held his body still; from the outside eye, it would have been labeled as an act of cruelty, but it was done simply to protect his fragile head from the rigid stones. Sometimes, the cloaked man regretted his decision to align himself with the rising monarchy of the city; he'd had more than enough chances to escape the Kingdom. Up until now though, he had never had to do more than order an assassin to kill somebody; never before had he had to harm a living creature.
"Are you ready?" his companion asked. His voice was practiced and even, as if he'd drained all of the emotion out of his heart.
He nodded, "Yes." Quietly, he pulled out the glimmering knife from his pocket, holding it up to sparkle in the luminous moonlight. He held it gingerly over the child's arm, and as if it knew the red pain that was to come, it silenced its cries immediately.
The man let out a slow breath, and began to recite the un-poetic curse that he'd rehearsed on countless nights:
"You will watch us, you will shield us;
You will kill on our demands.
Your bloodshed is our grim secret
Your soul is in our hands.
Obey the crown and protest not,
Forget this all tomorrow
Grow immune to all your sins
Become our hand of sorrow."
Wincing as if it were his own pain, the man drew a careful steady line from the boy's elbow to his wrist, watching as scarlet liquid oozed from the wound and the cries became real again. The man took the young blood, and slid his own finger along the blade, then traced a faint, crimson path that snaked down the boys cheeks: bloody tears. Then, to satisfy the tradition of this ancient curse, he took another knife and shattered the first, leaving the glittering pieces scattered on the street.
The soulless companion handed him an old bandage, to which he used to wrap the screaming child's injury. The three of them then made their way through the moonlit street back to the castle, which was equally immersed in darkness. The man fought not to let tears escape his eyes - a technique he now often practiced. They had made a choice for this child, one that would bound him to the crown for life. It was a decision monumental in loss and power; a decision that the now slumbering baby could not comprehend.
* * *
Demetri paced around the bare room, only half aware of the fiery sunset beyond his window. His maturing mind could not help but try to unravel the mysteries of his youth: how had he ended up bound to this wretched life? Why, though his whole being was willing to dash out of the castle at every instant, he could not bring himself to pass through the iron-cast doors? Nothing he knew was certain: not even his name. His old guardian: Albus, had mentioned once that his real birth name was unknown.
Actually, Albus was the only source of righteousness that Demetri could find within his grasp. He was the hand that soothed him when he'd returned from a menacing mission; he told Demetri that it was not his nature that was murderous, it was not his decision.
Demetri had only spoken to his master, the Lord, once; all that night he prayed that he would never have to face the man again. His bloodshot eyes were wrapped in layers of dark, black skin, and his lips were thin little slits the color of the first morning. His face was older than Albus'; that meant old.
"Letter," a small voice offered. Demetri turned swiftly and snatched the thin piece of parchment, waiting until the old door clicked shut to rest his eyes on it.
I miss you, the war is so terrifying. Why must you refuse to run away with me?We could be so happy, you could forget your past and Icould avoid this awful future. I love you, fueled by your flaws and your strengths in equal parts. I've been dreaming about our escape. It's lovely. Please?
Demetri stared into the corner, painfully aware of the parched, dryness of his eyes; he had never cried. Not since he was a baby, Albus had said. He couldn't keep stalling Abigail, the beautiful love of his life and existence. She was the sun during the frigid nights he was forced to endure. He prayed to be united with her; he prayed that his master would release him. But he could not leave. Though Abby tugged on his heart from nearly every angle, his devotion and unavoidable honor were traits that could not be broken without bloodshed.
Could Demetri really choose a chance at happiness over a commitment that, when canceled, may possess dire consequences? He’d grown up in a world conquered by power, materialism, and fear; shattering his own dreams to protect his honor seemed to be the only logical option.
He picked up his over-loved quill and a roll of scratched parchment:
Forgive me, my love, but I can no longer lead you to live within this dream. There is no way I can leave this horrible destiny I’m sentenced too: I’m cursed Abigail. Cursed with a curse so strong that the thought of breaking it is exhausting.
Please forgive me for all your sorrow, and for leaving you out of my own petty fear. Forgive me for silencing all of our lovely dreams, since now – frozen in time – that’s all they’ll ever be. However, I shall still remain beside you, serve you through every fiber of my being. I’ll still love you, though you’ll know not that it was me.
All my love,
He called the servant boy back in to his chamber, sending him off with the newly sealed letter. Would Abigail cry upon reading it? Would she become angry? Demetri had no way of knowing her grim future. All he knew was that he had sinned goodness for his attachment to the crown; he had sacrificed and broken his dreams, he had left behind so much in all those years.
With so much saddening negativity ruling his life, Demetri accepted with dread that he truly was his master’s private assassin, his eternal servant, his Hand of Sorrow.
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