After the play julian walked homed avoiding anyone and everyone. Locking himself away at night and spending his days either at the library or on the roof of the spires. Today is the 3rd day since the play. Julian slices a portion of chicken liver patè and places it on rebe’s platter and then dresses himself for the day. Leaving his home he is dressed in a charcoal cassock lined with red. Locking the door he slips on his gloves and makes his way to the spires.
The sunset that afternoon is unremarkable, a dull, hazy orange.
“I thought you might be up here.” Iskanda’s voice carries from the steps to the roof of the Spires. “I’d hoped to speak to you before-” She pauses. “How are you? Do you feel…different?” She studies Julian, but almost seems to look through him, searching for something unseen.
Julian turns to iskanda without getting up. "I feel a great deal. Not quiet what I wanted to feel or how I expected to feel. Bittersweet if you must know. It showed me my sister as it died. It said I would feel pain like no mortal has ever felt if it tried to …tried to “join” me.
All my sins and guilt burnt by its flame. Yet I wish I could hear her voice again. "
Nervously he begins rubbing his hands together and Julian stares out again.
“You wanted to speak to me before what?”
Iskanda crosses her arms over her chest and looks out over the city with narrowed eyes.
“I’ll be leaving soon. Taking a trip. I can’t say how long I’ll be gone.” She turns her attention to him. “I wanted to make sure, before I left, that you can…that you will act righteously. That you don’t cause any more harm. The angel within you – can it help you with that?”
“I’m cursed from causing any living being harm. Have the essence of a divine being coursing through me and you want to know if im going to commit any atrocities while your away. …. "
Julian closes his eyes as he speaks. “Sweet mother of none what do you think of me. If i said yes would you believe me? I don’t even know how to work on what i’ve done let alone to focus on what ill do.”
She sighs. “Can you fault me? Think of all that you’ve done. I’ve known you since you were just a boy, Julian, I helped raise you, and if the only things keeping you from killing and maiming are the curses and limitations forced upon you, then I…”
She trails off and looks away again. When she speaks, it’s quiet, broken. “I can’t help but think I failed you.”
I’m an adult iskanda and I Can be held accountable for my own actions. I’ve tried to do good or what I thought was best for me At the least. I’ve taken short cuts and Ive been greedy. I’ve been a bad person.
But I am trying to attone which isn’t a quick prosses one you won’t even be here to see aparently. Why are you leaving there’s reasons for you to stay with our a parent victory.
“Victory?” She grimaces. “I suppose in this city, that is what counts as a victory…but…I have things to attend to elsewhere. I do not know how long I’ll be gone, but I will be sad to miss your progress.” Her expression brightens somewhat. “It’s good to hear you speak of yourself so honestly and without pride.”
“You don’t think jack assured the seat is a victory?” Pausing julian frounds. " People died. They would of died regardless in a much more pointless spectial. I know this brings little solace but it is an ugly truth. think of the alternative had she won I believe things would have gotten much worse for certain citizens."
“It’s certainly better than any alternatives, yes, yet still…” Iskanda shakes her head. “We struck down slaves, holy warriors, and an angel to make this happen. We will never be clean of that blood.”
“The dead live on in our actions regardless if they die fighting with us or against us. Had they died fighting with us as I think they would of wanted things would be much simpler. We can take a quick and bloody path to our goal or the high road and hope we don’t fall.
the problem is what if all you see is bloody path. Is inaction then the proper course?
“No. It never is.”
She steps over towards the edge of the roof and leans against the recently-repaired railing, peering down the length of the Spire.
“You really do seem changed. To be honest, I was…disappointed when you were the one to slay the angel. But if this is the result, perhaps there was an upside.” She looks over her shoulder at him. “And in doing so, you saved me from it. For that I thank you.”
“I was trying to let it posses me, it was hesitant. It said I would more than likely die.” Nodding julain seems to have some internal discussion.
“It seemed rabid at the end. No longer willing to talk and angery”
Iskanda nods. “When I struck it, I was trying desperately to make it quick. Put it out of its misery. Allow the rest of you to be free of that sin. But…that didn’t happen.”
She turns and rests her back against the rail. “Whatever I did made it speak out loud, and angels never do that.”
“Oh I didn’t even notice it spoke outloud. Maybe I was too far to hear it.”
Julian removes a glove and inspects his hand.
“Who knows ethereal beings are strange. You know you think this would be warm but it’s not. I thought it would feel like when you cast a spell.”
“Like me…?” She frowns, then realization comes to her. “Oh. The trip into Jack’s mind. How does it feel?”
“very hard to describe. It’s cool and seems heavy with purpose.
There’s a dull ache deep inside it like a muscle wishing to be exerted.”
Slipping the glove back on he scratches his shoulder.
“Flying …I haven’t really tried since then. I loved my wings. I’ll miss them.”
“Perhaps you’ll find other ways to fly.”
Iskanda looks upwards at the darkening sky. “Do you know what it wishes you to do? The urge to exert, that is.”
“No. But that’s not really the best description of it. the feeling of holding a loaded crossbow in your hands. like remembering a loved ones laugh.”
Julien pulls out a flask and stares at it. He unscrews the top off and the air is filled with a sharp odor. After a sip he speaks.
“it’s the emptiness you feel inside you when a loved one dies in your arms.”
She blinks and her eyes widen. “That’s…I’m sorry that you have to feel that. It’s a terrible thing to go through, even for an instant.”
She pauses, brow furrowed, and when she speaks again, her voice is softer. “When had you held someone like that?”
“My sister died In my arms. I held her as she convulse. I heard her heartbeat fade as we laid there. she shouldn’t of died.”
shaking his head he looks up at iskanda.
“Let’s talk of something else ruminating about the past is something I can do on my own.”
“Oh.” She swallows. “I’m sorry. I…didn’t know.”
She takes in a deep breath and looks around, suddenly curious about the stonework on the rooftop. After a moment, she clears her throat.
“Have you spoken with Silla yet? Or anyone else who knows about angelic beings?”
“Only silla and he said he’d look into it he’s researching many things for us right now and I told him there was no hurry. I haven’t asked my colleagues yet… Didnt one of you say jack had something with angels?”
dabbing his glove on the sides of his face he continues.
“The laugh said they had made a deal with the angel maybe that’s what it wants? But I’m not a theologian.”
“Maybe.” Iskanda shrugs. “I’m not sure if the Laugh is really trustworthy in that regard. As for an angel with Jack? Hm….Oh, yes. When we were purging his mind of the nightmare demon, we lingered too long, and the wards reactivated. You were unconscious, but Terth and I saw the ward in the form of an angel.”
She purses her lips. “To be honest, my knowledge of wards is limited. It couldn’t hurt to talk to Jack about it. Have you met with him at all since the opera?”
“The man thinks of me as a monster I doubt his opinion has improved much. He’s see me as danger and liability. He won’t even speak to me in private anymore. Yet either I’m being lead on or he honestly thinks I can fix our dependant on slavery.”
“To be fair, you are a danger. Or were. Every action has repercussions, something we know all too well, and think of how you -” She cuts herself off and shakes her head. “I should remember that you’re trying to better yourself. Perhaps the slavery solution can be a part of that? I don’t recall if you’d ever told me what you had in mind.”
speaking very quickly.
“No. I haven’t with reason. I said _i _don’t_have_the_stomach for it any longer.” letting the words hang in the air for moment.“Many are against it ending. All I see is my way which would cut the population of slaves in half and maybe more if some nobles find it fashionable to hire servants. But it will make those poeple into brutes like me only ..more easily manipulated. It’s only idea I have other methods proved too costly a replacement. Bastige will bleed or starve. abolishing slavery will cause unrest. Which will lead to violence and death. If we put that many suddenly free they will starve as cost for staples peak. so all I’m left with is the cruel algebra. there’s still time..”
Julian grimaces as he prepares for a blow.
Iskanda narrows her eyes. “Turning men into beasts to use as slaves does not resolve the slavery problem. Bastige will never change unless it happens abruptly. The idea of using people for forced labor is abhorrent. Imagine if it was you, tattooed and enslaved, your entire life at the mercy of your master’s whims.”
She breathes deep and her expression eases. “Making it more fashionable to hire servants is an idea with potential. The nobility is obsessed with their image, after all.”
“I’m not saying my way is better but have you thought about the repercussions of abruptly ending slavery? projections that I have don’t even include people who will actively work against us. thete will be riots. and it will be as a grander scale than the ones that we have seen before.The cities response will be more amped. remember the bombings there will be more maybe even larger than that scale. freed slaves blamed for taking people’s jobs will be beatenin in the street. my way is monstrous totalitarian in way it saves more lives.” pinching the bridge of his nose Julian continunes. “I’m thinking of another way how can I contact you when your gone.”
“I understand that it will be difficult, but…sometimes you must break off and burn the chaff.” She frowns. “And it may be hard to reach me. I have a few destinations planned, but I will send word if I’m ever in one place for a good period of time.”
“The chaff? I’m talking about innocent poeple thrown into chaos who will die due to our actions. Which now will die due to my inability to come up with a solution.
Iskanda shifts on her feet. “It’s unfortunate that Bastige is so fearful of technology. From what I’ve heard, Varselon seems to have found a good replacement. But…what of magic-fueled golems? Not twisted living creatures, but statues of stone or metal or wood.”
“It’s not just the fear but cost. VarsElon has no love of bastige. Getting experts and materials would be costly without the bad blood between them. Also the powers against would have plenty of ammunition. We could force flesh craft on harpies or some other evil above or below. Also what is it were you a slave?”
“What?” She scowls and narrows her eyes. “No. You don’t need to have lived as one to understand that it’s a horrific institution. And I don’t think enslaving harpies or the like is an answer.” She rubs her forehead, looking at him strangely. “I meant non-living constructions. Gargoyles are used throughout Bastige as guards, and we use wards on practically everything. Could a statue be infused with magic to be used as manual labor?”
“Well I just meant you’ve focused more on slavery than others is all… figured maybe you had more than altruistic reasons for your focus. A statue could be made for such a reason but only for very simple task and at a cost. It a gargoyle
is meant to defend. You can’t just tell it to till soil and start loading carts. What if we removed slavery and manipulation from it. Open the market of strength enhancement. There dangers of giving power such as that but we could make a profit and spend that profit on feeding and finding work for slaves who don’t enchant themselves.”
“I believe in freedom and justice. But if you must know…I was nearly married off to a man in my homeland when I was young. I cannot stand the idea of a forced marriage, and so then slavery…” She shakes her head.
“I understand your concerns. On my travels I will research what other nations do as an alternative to slavery, if anything. I suggest you do the same. There must be a good solution to this.”
“I rather like the choice of enchantments that and finding work for those who don’t wish to go to those lengths to find a job. We could go about some great public works project. Other countries have a faceless waste or a living jungle to send the bold and desprate. we could see what the ruins under the city hold but I’ve never heard of anyone finding anything pleasant.”