Bloody Excrement

[10.03.99] » by H.L.

    The cold morning brushed his face as he looked over the castle's tall walls, marveling at their size and strength. If it wasn't for my grandfather's defecting during the war, I myself would be living in such a place. And now I am nothing.
     Delita and Ramza were walking at his side, speaking with low voices. They seemed to have a friendship, an understanding he couldn't quite grasp, and it somehow irritated him. How can Ramza, son of a nobleman, be at such easy terms with this commoner? Commoners are nothing. From the very beginning he felt he'll dislike Delita. With his cool, disdainful air. Who does he think he is? Treating me, the son of a Nobleman, as an equal.
     At his side, Ramza's voice suddenly spoke. "Look Delita, here's Zalbag and Alma, and Teta too! I told you they'll be in the castle today!"
     Algus raised his eyes. Down the narrow, winding road paved with dark stones he could see three figure walking toward them. A grave-looking knight, that he guessed would be Ramza's brother, followed by two young girls. One of them, clad in a grey and purple dress, her white face framed by dark brown hair, hurried towards them. She paused when she saw the stranger, peering at the trio of young men with a hesitating, slightly shy air.
     "Teta," Delita said, advancing toward her. She embraced him, and Alma and Zalbag hurried towards Ramza, greeting him likewise. Ramza turned and introduced Algus, then Delita looked over his shoulder at them. "This is Algus, Teta," he said, gesturing politely towards him. "Algus, this is my sister, Teta."
     Algus bent his head slightly in silent greeting, seething inside. Look at Delita, acting as if this was an afterthought. Damn him.
     Teta returned the gesture but retreated to Delita's side, examining the stranger silently. Algus turned his head away. Why do you think I'd care about even acknowledging your sister, Delita. You commoner bastard.

     Algus stood on the castle's balcony, grasping the heavy crossbow in his hands tightly. He had been practicing all morning, but somehow he couldn't quite get as good as he wished to. He missed the target almost every single time. I need to practice this damned thing, to be of some use. They treat me like I was nothing but a wretched cadet. I'll rescue the Marquis, and then I'll get the respect I ought to get. I'm a son of a nobleman, damn it all. He gritted his teeth. I am as good as you all. I am better.
     A voice behind him roused him from his thoughts. "What are you doing?"
     He turned around, and perceived the young girl walking to his side. She peered at the crossbow at his hand. "Oh, you're practicing?" she asked.
     Not her again. Without looking at her he replied, "Yes."
     After a pause, she said, "You are-- Algus. Right?"
     "Yes," he replied, flatly. "And you're the sister of..." that bastard Delita.
     "Delita." She was silent a moment, and he felt something rising in him-- a disquietude that was irksome. Angrily, he raised the crossbow again, looking for a target-- any target. Drat, why am I so lousy with this accursed machine?
     Since she was continuously silent, he felt obliged to pursue the conversation. "Your name, I don't seem to recall it--"
     She finally answered. "My name is--"
     I already know, damn you. Teta.
     Algus was silent again, looking up. You little commoner girl, with your fine grey dress and your pretty white face, living here in this rich castle while I have to kill for my living, never getting the respect that I ought to get...
     Teta's voice distracted his thoughts. "Look!" She turned her face up, and Algus looked in the direction of her pointing finger. There was a small bird sitting on the castle parapet, flapping its wings in a pitiable manner.
     "It must have been injured," Teta said, her voice full of pity. "Poor little thing, it's trapped. It can't even fly..."
     Algus didn't reply. Something rose to his mind at once. This bird-- it made-- such a perfect target.
     He directed the crossbow, concentrated, then let the arrow fly. After a moment the little grey form flapped its wings weakly then plunged down to the snow below, the arrow in its breast. Algus stepped back, a dark glitter of satisfaction in his eye. "A perfect shot," he muttered to himself.
     Besides him, he heard Teta gasp. Then she spoke, her voice shaking. "What-- why-- why did you do that?"
     Algus ignored her. Teta ran and leant over the edge of the balcony. Then, she turned around and looked into his face. "This was a harmless creature, Algus! Why did you kill it?"
     After a pause, Algus spoke, his voice cold. "Don't presume to tell me what to do."
     She looked at him steadily, and he returned her gaze darkly; then, he turned his back to her again, his mind seething with sudden fury. Who do you think you are anyway, to lecture me?
     Teta, sensing his hostility now, fell back a little. She seemed to want to leave, but, knowing that justice was on her side and refusing to submit to her sudden apprehension of him, she persisted. "That-- that was not right! You shouldn't have killed this bird just because-- you needed practice! Practicing your craft on a living, harmless, helpless creature!"
     "I will do whatever I want," Algus replied acidly. His irritation and hostility grew. He wished she would shut up. You and your annoying, accusing little voice--
      "No you won't!" Teta replied. Now her voice took on a hotter quality. "No you won't, Algus!"
     Algus spun around, gazing at her darkly. "Yes I will," he replied. "I will do ANYTHING I want, because I don't owe anyone anything. To achieve my own ends I feel free to choose any target. Any target." Suddenly, he knew how to shut her up. Without a change of expression, he raised the crossbow calmly toward her. "Even you make such a perfect target, Teta."
     Her face turned very white, and for a moment Algus wondered if he went too far. Damn. If she squeals on me I'm done for it--
     Teta raised her hands to her mouth. Her lips opened for a moment, as if she sought to say something; but then, she turned around and ran out of the balcony. Algus lowered the bow, gritting his teeth with rage.
     That's right, you little brat. Run away. You are nothing, nobody, no one.
     Just like me.
     A voice addressed him from behind, startling him: "Practicing your craft, Algus?"
     Recognizing Dycedarg's tones, Algus turned white. DAMN! He must have heard the whole thing! What will he say to me, now that I insulted that little pet of theirs--
     The Duke came out into the balcony with his slow step, and Algus stood his grounds, trying to look calm and composed. "Yes, Sir," he said. "I am practicing."
    Duke Dycedarg stood in front of Algus, silent for a moment, and Algus felt the panic rising in him again. He expected Dycedarg to say something to him that will infer to his treatment of Teta. But after a moment, Dycedarg turned away. "I can see you are getting better with practice too," he said, with a cool, steady voice, pointing down over the balcony.
     Algus turned and looked, leaning over a little. He could see the little grey form on the ground, the arrow sticking up out of its breast, surrounded by a red patch of snow. "Yes, Sir," he replied, flatly.
     After another moment, Dycedarg turned away. "That is very good," he said, over his shoulder. "Keep practicing, Algus, and I might find a use for you yet." Then he walked back into the castle, leaving Algus on the balcony.
     Algus brushed his hair out of his eyes, thinking of what Dycedarg said. I wonder if he heard my words to Teta. I wonder if he meant what he said. Could it be that he meant that I could get somewhere in his service, despite what I said--
     -- or maybe--
     -- because of it.

     "This situation isn't to our advantage, you understand," Dycedarg said, his fingers tapping on the table. "If the Death Corps think they can use this girl to their advantage, it could become unpleasant. But I have the solution, and you can do it for me."
     Algus stood stiffly before Dycedarg's gaze, wondering what the Lord would say. Does he want me to rescue that girl? As if she matters anyway. She is probably better for them dead.
     Dycedarg looked at him with his dark eyes, his countenance impassive and his voice businesslike and flat as he continued to speak. "You will accompany Zalbag, who already knows about this. He didn't like it either, but he understands the necessity for it. You see, we need the girl to be killed."
     Algus made a jerking movement with his head as he heard his thoughts echoed, but he spoke with an even voice, betraying no surprise or emotion: "Yes, Sir."
     Dycedarg examined the young man who stood before him with an impassive, sullen expression. He knew that the cruel, disdainful, ambitious Algus would be perfect for this mission. "There is no point in keeping her alive, you see. I want you to accompany Zalbag, and personally make sure that this is carried out. Understand me?"
     Algus was silent, staring stiffly ahead. Yes, I understand it better than you think. Because she is nothing. Dycedarg continued: "I'll give you troops for yours to command, and if you complete it successfully you'll find me not ungrateful, Algus."
     "Yes, Sir," Algus finally replied. "I'll make sure it is carried out."
     "Good," Dycedarg said. "I knew I could count on you to understand that the life of one common girl means very little in the big picture of this struggle against the Death Corps."
     "Of course," said Algus, still staring ahead. So he wants to turn me into a murderer. He's going to use me. But then I'll get what I want-- I'll be using HIM.
     "Just remember not to let your feelings get the better of you," said Dycedarg's deep, passive voice. "This is business."
     Algus was still staring straight ahead. "I never do, Sir," he replied frigidly.

     The cold day brushed Algus's face, and the snow blew at him from the freezing skies. His fingers, tight against the wooden crossbow, were hot and sweaty. He knew what he had to do, and he thought coldly of the deed and its consequence. If I only do this, I will finally have what I want--
     High on the castle's parapet he could see his target, the pitiful form of the girl sitting wretchedly against the white snow. Zalbag's hand lay on his shoulder heavily for a moment, then withdrew. "You know what to do," his voice said, calmly.
     Algus raised his crossbow towards the form. And you'll be what helps me achieve my goal... you make such a perfect target... Teta.
      His fingers and face felt hot, despite the freezing day. Is this what I really want to do?
     He could hear the Dycedarg's words echoing in his mind. Just remember not to let your feelings get the better of you.
     This isn't a girl-- it isn't a human being-- she's a commoner-- she's like an animal. She's nothing.
     Algus let the arrow fly. It hit straight to the mark, and he could see her keeling over with a stifled moan. He almost expected her to fall from the parapet to his feet and lie in the red snow, like the little grey bird he had shot on that cold, snowy day. But she stayed on the high parapet, far from his reach.
     Algus could see Delita's white face, and a voice somewhere in his mind told him that he was now a murderer, but he ignored it. What did Ramza and Delita matter anyway? He could now raise his arm and command power to his aid. He was finally somebody again, like he wanted to be.
     "Algus," said Delita's voice, enraged with the shock. "I'll have your blood before this day is over. I swear!"
     That is what YOU think, Delita. I have power now, you damned commoner. I won't let you kill me, now that I've finally achieve my goal. I have what I want.
     I'll have your blood today, Algus--
     In his mind, the patch of blood on the snow grew wider and wider around the grey body. Will my blood stain the snow-- will I lose everything-- will I die today, just as I achieved what I wanted.
     I am no longer the nobody that I was--
    -- Or am I--

Note: "Bloody Excrement" was the tune that occurs when Algus murders Teta.

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