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Chapter 2.2 - Albert IX

stnylan

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Chapter 2.2 - Albert IX

The ocean is, if not calm, comparatively placid for the Atlantic in December. A brisk breeze ensures I am alone at this rail, even if the early morning hour does not. For the moment the clouds have cleared, and above me glitters the august panoply of the heavens - a banquet for mine eyes alone. Except I pay it little attention, gazing down at the swelling water with its ever-changing entrancing motions.

Looped over my wrist is the handle of a small bag that hangs loose and sometimes clunks against metal as the ship moves with the waves. Within are some fresh-fired clay tablets. As promised they had been waiting for me in my cabin. My Lord, for certain things, still prefers older forms. There is a security to it as well - there are few indeed who could read the script, and fewer still who would be adept enough to detect its particular idiosyncrasies when translating.

The content itself had been plain enough: a ritual to enable a given object, suitably primed, to collate what happened in its presence, and for the maker to retrieve the information at a later point. I suspect it would not be long before modern technological wizardry make this ritual nigh obsolete, if it is not already.

My eyes feast upon the endlessly fascinating waveforms, and my mind wanders, back to my Summons a few nights after My Lord’s most recent return.


My Lord stands straight, his back to me as I enter the room. For several nights I have felt energised. Not quite anxious, but unable to settle. Tonight, when the call came - like the beautifully clear ringing of a bell - I knew. I smile as I bow, and my joy is not feigned when I say, “My Lord, you wished for me?”

He turns, dressed in his tunic and robe. “Albert,” he greets me, his speech coloured with warmth. He strides over and takes my arms, holding them firmly. “It is good to see you once more.” He releases me. “And as ever you have stayed loyal.”

“My Lord, I do my best.”

“You do very well, Albert. You always have. Even before …”

He stops, and I wait. He seems to study me.

“Albert, it appears I have been away almost too long. Valerius has disappointed me, and in the next little while I will have much to do. But when that is done I wish to offer you tuition, if you will take it - if you can learn at least two of the languages I once spoke under the sun.”

I swallow, a reflex I thought I had forgotten. Not quite so, apparently. “My Lord - blesses me,” I half-stammer out. I cannot fathom this.



Forty years later, I still cannot fathom this gift. A sign of favour? An eccentric whim? A deep play in the never-ending struggle that rules the night? Maybe even a wager with one of a similar age that I - a relative youth - can or cannot learn their mysteries. I could tie myself in knots thinking it about it - so with logic and no little will I stop.

Instead I think again about these tablets, bound in the bag I carry. Or rather, with the first words pressed into the clay. “In honour of Eorhic, whom I remember.” Every instruction from him over these last four decades has started thus.

I open the lift up the bag and take out a tablet. I start to break it up, throwing the sherds over the side. I take up each tablet in its turn, leaving the first to last. I throw out the empty bag, and then begin to demolish this tablet as well. At least I am holding onto but one peace, with that name. I stare down at it. Eorhic. As ever I make my choice. I throw the scrap away, to join its fellows in the deep.

In two nights we shall arrive in America. It is Albert that will step down from the gangplank to ferret out the reasons for this reason - those admitted to and those not. It is Albert who will try to find a scion of a purged line who is happy to move to London. For now I can but wait. I follow the enthralling ocean swells, losing myself to the study of their shifting shapes and sizes until it is nearly dawn.
 
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Bullfilter

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Hmm, I wonder if the Master found this Valerius’ lack of faith (or competence) ... disturbing. And dealt with in standard imperious dark lord fashion. If the Master dates back to Sumer, that could make him 5,000+ years old. So Albert, as a relative ’youth’, might have first hand memories of the Roman Republic! Interested to discover what this mission is all about. And whether the voodoo zombies play a part.
 

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This passage presages more than it includes, and there is an ominous tone matched by the choppy seas, a metaphor for the other struggles.

But the writing, @stnylan. It is so evocative.
Except I pay it little attention, gazing down at the swelling water with its ever-changing entrancing motions.
Beautifully done.
 

Specialist290

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The content itself had been plain enough: a ritual to enable a given object, suitably primed, to collate what happened in its presence, and for the maker to retrieve the information at a later point. I suspect it would not be long before modern technological wizardry make this ritual nigh obsolete, if it is not already.
A bit tangential, but I've always found it somewhat amusing that as much as our technology has advanced since the earliest days of writing, we've ended up coming full circle in having tablets as a means of communicating written messages. Even if the exact mechanics are vastly different, there's a certain poetic symmetry there.

Another idle thought: I wonder if the Master ever knew Ea-nasir.
 
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My first thought was that in destroying and discarding the tablets Albert had committed an act of insubordination, but now I’m not so sure that would pass so unceremoniously in the middle of everything else. So I’m going to guess instead that whatever was on the tablets was incredibly sensitive and this is all just another wheel within a wheel. :)
 

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bit tangential, but I've always found it somewhat amusing that as much as our technology has advanced since the earliest days of writing, we've ended up coming full circle in having tablets as a means of communicating written messages. Even if the exact mechanics are vastly different, there's a certain poetic symmetry there.
Especially as heads up display in glasses were coming out as an option at the same time as tablets and smartphones...

My first thought was that in destroying and discarding the tablets Albert had committed an act of insubordination, but now I’m not so sure that would pass so unceremoniously in the middle of everything else. So I’m going to guess instead that whatever was on the tablets was incredibly sensitive and this is all just another wheel within a wheel. :)
What, Dan Brown style 'jesus was gay and a woman and the secret love child of Julius Caesar'?
 

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My first thought was that in destroying and discarding the tablets Albert had committed an act of insubordination, but now I’m not so sure that would pass so unceremoniously in the middle of everything else. So I’m going to guess instead that whatever was on the tablets was incredibly sensitive and this is all just another wheel within a wheel. :)
I rather read it as his transformation being complete. Or at least a step further. His old self is forever gone.
 

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I'd assumed the tablets were destroyed for standard fieldcraft "destroy this message after reading it" reasons. I may have been oversimplifying a work famed for it's multiple levels of wheels-within-wheels. :eek:

I rather read it as his transformation being complete. Or at least a step further. His old self is forever gone.
I'll admit I read it differently. That neither Albert not his Master can quite let go of "Eohric" even after all this time.

Also Eohric is an anagram of Ich Roe - Albert is admitting to really being fish eggs. Being both of the sea and an egg they are naturally associated with Asherah, a goddess of fertility who was also Lady of the Sea, significantly she was Queen Consort of the King of the Gods in the Sumerian pantheon. The implications of that should be obvious!

(This is my entry in the over-analysing the text to torture out some sort of meaning competition.)
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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I'd assumed the tablets were destroyed for standard fieldcraft "destroy this message after reading it" reasons. I may have been oversimplifying a work famed for it's multiple levels of wheels-within-wheels. :eek:


I'll admit I read it differently. That neither Albert not his Master can quite let go of "Eohric" even after all this time.

Also Eohric is an anagram of Ich Roe - Albert is admitting to really being fish eggs. Being both of the sea and an egg they are naturally associated with Asherah, a goddess of fertility who was also Lady of the Sea, significantly she was Queen Consort of the King of the Gods in the Sumerian pantheon. The implications of that should be obvious!

(This is my entry in the over-analysing the text to torture out some sort of meaning competition.)
Illuminati confirmed.
 

stnylan

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Hmm, I wonder if the Master found this Valerius’ lack of faith (or competence) ... disturbing. And dealt with in standard imperious dark lord fashion. If the Master dates back to Sumer, that could make him 5,000+ years old. So Albert, as a relative ’youth’, might have first hand memories of the Roman Republic! Interested to discover what this mission is all about. And whether the voodoo zombies play a part.
Well, Sumer has a rather long history ... and Sumerian as a language was kept alive for well over a millenia after it stopped being spoken in the vernacular. I mean, given I own (though I cannot properly read) Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis ...

This passage presages more than it includes, and there is an ominous tone matched by the choppy seas, a metaphor for the other struggles.

But the writing, @stnylan. It is so evocative.


Beautifully done.
That you very much.

A bit tangential, but I've always found it somewhat amusing that as much as our technology has advanced since the earliest days of writing, we've ended up coming full circle in having tablets as a means of communicating written messages. Even if the exact mechanics are vastly different, there's a certain poetic symmetry there.

Another idle thought: I wonder if the Master ever knew Ea-nasir.
Well of course some clay tablets were designed to be hand-held, as opposed to set up on a bench. You would hold the clay in one hand, reed in the other, and so write. The more things change...

And I had to giggle.

My first thought was that in destroying and discarding the tablets Albert had committed an act of insubordination, but now I’m not so sure that would pass so unceremoniously in the middle of everything else. So I’m going to guess instead that whatever was on the tablets was incredibly sensitive and this is all just another wheel within a wheel. :)
Hah! No, not intended to be insubordination - more now he has learned what was inscribed getting rid of the evidence.

What, Dan Brown style 'jesus was gay and a woman and the secret love child of Julius Caesar'?
*shudder*

I rather read it as his transformation being complete. Or at least a step further. His old self is forever gone.
This will - or leastways I certainly intend - trace this thing further.

I'd assumed the tablets were destroyed for standard fieldcraft "destroy this message after reading it" reasons. I may have been oversimplifying a work famed for it's multiple levels of wheels-within-wheels. :eek:


I'll admit I read it differently. That neither Albert not his Master can quite let go of "Eohric" even after all this time.

Also Eohric is an anagram of Ich Roe - Albert is admitting to really being fish eggs. Being both of the sea and an egg they are naturally associated with Asherah, a goddess of fertility who was also Lady of the Sea, significantly she was Queen Consort of the King of the Gods in the Sumerian pantheon. The implications of that should be obvious!

(This is my entry in the over-analysing the text to torture out some sort of meaning competition.)
In this case the simplest explanationis correct! :D

I hereby call this the Fish Egg Hypothesis


All

So this little passage was something I wanted to include, but I didn't really know how best to include it. It is a bit of a shorter update, but I really didn't like appending it to the Storytime segment at the start of this chapter, and I didn't want to either pad it out or try and weld it into another of Albert's scenes. So out solo it went, and I am glad though it seems to have gotten a good response.

I am hoping to get the next update out at the weekend, though I suppose that might depend a little on how distracted I get by CK3 from tomorrow :)
 

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roverS3

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Ah yes, the new world. For these centuries, nae millennia old vampires it must seem like it was discovered yesterday, or maybe they knew about it all along, and it was only the mere mortals of Europe that discovered it? Anyway. This continues to exceed my expectations.

Is the Eorhic in the tablets in some way connected to the Eorhic in the Eorhic & Nora chapter, or was that young man/beast simply named after that ancient Sumerian?
 

stnylan

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According to P-Anon, anyway! :p
Indeed
:)

Ah yes, the new world. For these centuries, nae millennia old vampires it must seem like it was discovered yesterday, or maybe they knew about it all along, and it was only the mere mortals of Europe that discovered it? Anyway. This continues to exceed my expectations.

Is the Eorhic in the tablets in some way connected to the Eorhic in the Eorhic & Nora chapter, or was that young man/beast simply named after that ancient Sumerian?
As regards ot the new world, I think for the oldest vampires - always allowing exceptions - it really would be a strange thing to learn of this new land. Though - unless they already knew - it would hardly be the first time their conception of the world had radically changed.

As for Eorhic - Eorhic is a good Anglo-Saxon name.
 
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Chapter 2.3 - Martin - a few hours later

stnylan

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Chapter 2.3 - Martin - a few hours later

“What should I do about my boy?” Robert asked suddenly. They were a goodly way out of London now. To the south-east there was yet no glimmer of the dawn. “I don’t want him to get in the way of my service.”

Martin concentrated as he navigated the motor car around a bend in the road. “You should do as your Master told you,” he replied. “Honour the lad - which means not neglecting him. Why did you hold out your agreement until you were sure your son’s future was secure?”

“I … don’t remember,” Robert answered, sounding lost.

“Your bond is a powerful thing. But your tie with your son is also a binding of blood, and is your only real chance of balance. Master Darius could claim a slave anytime. He doesn’t want anything so crude.”

“Does he? He did your Master’s asking, but is it his own?”

Martin held back a curse. If nothing else Robert’s time in the Navy had taught him all about hierarchies. “You are Master Darius’ servant, but you are still part of my Master’s household. You are bound to Master Darius at his whim. And Master Darius, in front of his liege, has given you direction. Don’t try to twist out of it.”

Another silence, and then Robert said in a strangely small voice, “You won’t tell him I thought that? I don’t want to cause him dishonour.”

Martin tried to remember what it was like when he was newly bound. “Of course not,” he said, trying to inject some kindness. “My appointed task - one of them - is to try and guide you, remember?”

“This is going to take some getting used to,” Robert muttered. He flexed his hand, but Martin noticed he didn’t hit anything this time. The door already had a considerable dent. He was learning.

After another few minutes Robert glanced back to where their unwilling passenger was concealed. “Do you think he will tell us anything more?”

“Angelo?” Martin asked. “If Lady Parr did not think it possible, we would have different instructions,” Martin said.

“I understand that,” Robert said, “but what do you think?”

The Lady had been quite clear. Despite her efforts Angelo - probably not a real name but it served as an appellation - was withholding something. She had stood there, Angelo’s broken form hung beside her, and explained she had drawn out of him the knowledge that he had been sent, and that he had previously quartered himself in Naples. However more details eluded her. Especially a name. The possessor of which, even absent, exerted greater control over Angelo than she. So to their task, to see what Uriel’s judgement could extract.

After a moment Martin said “In this, I think I trust Lady Parr’s judgement.” He turned the motor car off the larger road onto a gravelly path. “We’re nearly there.” He brought the vehicle to a stop, and getting out Martin could see it was still dark, but the fading Crescent moon had risen and provided just enough light to see by. It was quite cold.

“You take the bag, I’ll take him,” Martin told Richard, and reaching into the back pulled out Angelo from his box and slung him over his shoulder. The prisoner hung limp over him, and Martin shifted his position slightly so the end of the stake was not digging into his back. He took his heavy hunting rifle. “Come on.”

They walked for maybe twenty minutes in silence, until they came to the place. Lonely, south-east facing, with a good view - and importantly no house close by. Martin dumped his cargo against the exposed rock. “Get me those irons,” he said to Robert, who rummaged in the bag he had been lugging.

Within minutes Angelo’s broken arms and legs were secured. “This place seemed prepared,” Robert said, noting the pitons driven into the rock.

“True - it’s not a job I relish, but it helps to have places prepared for this sort of work.”

“What does my Master want?” Robert asked. “Not a slave, you said.”

Martin looked at the horizon. Maybe an hour yet. “Chuck that tarp over him, and let’s sit. Tea?” he asked, bringing out the Thermos from the bag.

Both men held their metal mugs tightly, the still-warm tea soothing their fingers. “Not a slave,” Martin said after a moment. He looked up at the stars, and then chuckled. “You’re Master Darius’ first servitor. I am told that makes you special. I wouldn’t know - but I’m special too. We both are.”

He drunk a glug of tea. “See Robert, my Master’s family usually claims folk of higher birth than me or you. People with money, or breeding, or sometimes both. Not folks like us at all.”

“So why us?” Richard asked.

“Because they need us,” Martin explained, smiling. “To do the things their other servants can’t. They can hire help as needed, muscle and informants. That’s what you were, of course. Hired help. But some tasks need a more personal touch - and that’s where I - and now you - step in. Why else have me train you? So in time, when Master Darius takes another, and seems to treat that one with greater favour, hold in your heart that your place is the most secure.”

Robert does not reply immediately. “When did you start your service?”

“Me?” Martin thought a moment about telling a lie, but this was part of his task. “Forty-three years ago last September.”

“That’s … longer than I expected,” Robert said in a quiet voice. He drained his mug.

“Our Masters’ offering gives us some gifts. Some you can develop over time, others are more innate -” he thinks of the dent in the automobile door, “as you’ve already discovered. Like that, we don’t age the same.You’ll find you get sick less often too. But … get to my age and leaving service means the years catch up. And I’ve been assured the older you are the quicker the years get.”

Robert muttered an expletive under his breath. “I really didn’t know what I was agreeing to,” he said.

“No,” Martin agreed, “but you knew that.”

Robert chuckled, and then serious. “Guess that age thing will be something to be aware of - folks might get suspicious if I don’t turn grey when it’s time.”

“True,” Martin agreed, “and it is an important matter. There is a fancy name for it, but here in London we call it the Silence of the Blood. But we can cross that bridge when it’s time. For the moment, we’ve got an inquisition to complete. Look - I think the sky is just starting to lighten a little. Do you?”

Robert looked at the horizon. “Aye, it is.”

“Then let’s get him ready.” Martin gets up and pulls the tarp off Angelo’s prone form, bones still broken above and below each joint. Lady Parr had been thorough.

“I said we were special,” Martin began, “and here is proof of it. Not yet one day in service and I am to teach you how to kill one of the Masters. Trust me, they do not usually teach this so young. Whilst that piece of wood pierces Angelo’s heart he can barely do a thing.” Even less given they had stoppered up his mouth and ears, and put a hood over his head. “But - as soon as we take that out - with enough blood - he can heal those breaks and tear us both to pieces. Of course, we’ll need to give him a bit of blood otherwise he won’t repair his chest and he won’t be able to talk to us at all - hence that canteen of pig’s blood in the bag.”

Robert said nothing, taking it in. Martin took a moment to look over the setup. “Lady Parr said you are the one to decide if he’s worth saving. So when I take the stake out you have that tarp ready to throw over him if you think he ought to live longer. Otherwise you will see the sun take him.” He shrugged as Robert’s querying look. “You’ll understand that soon enough. Just - it’s likely to get a bit noisy. Try to remember technically he’s already dead. Now, free his head and whatnot whilst I get the blood.”

That took but a moment. The next question was how much blood - too much would be dangerous, but too little would not help either. Well, if Angelo healed too much he could probably break enough before he got out. He wedged the mouth open and poured the blood down. Then he unfurled the cord at the stake’s base, and ran it out some feet to a convenient rock he could sit on. He looked at the horizon, lightening swiftly now.

“Ready that tarp?” Robert gathered it up and nodded. Martin threw him a length of felt. “I’ll do the speaking. When I say blind his eyes. And if you think it worthwhile that your wife’s killer lives a little longer throw the tarp on him.” Martin saw Robert’s frame twitch slightly at that reminder, and he pulled the tarp a little further away from the bound figure.

Martin loaded his rifle, double-barrelled, the cartridge soothingly large. He wasn’t interested in accuracy, more stopping power. “Here goes,” he said, lifting the rifle up and pulling the cord.

For a moment the stake held firm, and then sprung loose. Angelo made a strange airless sound. At once his broken chest began to knit itself back together - heart and lung, skin and bone. Now he gasped again, this time with sound and feeling. He thrashed about, but the irons held. Martin had both hands on his rifle now, aiming carefully. His prey had a wild look about him, but was no beast, not yet.

“Stop,” he called out. “Or I can just shoot now and let the sun finish you off. Unless you want to live of course.”

That did it, the thing stilled itself. It too now saw the horizon, and there was real fear in it.

“Good.” Martin said. “Now you understand the situation my colleague will blindfold you - just so you don’t get any ideas.” He nodded to Robert, who made quick work of it. “My colleague, as it happens, has a grudge with you. You killed his wife, and he has been given a gift. Your death. But if you tell us what we want he may choose to put his vengeance aside in service of a higher cause.”

“What do you want?” Angelo whimpered, his accent pronounced but understandable.

“I think you know,” Martin said. “I think you know very well.”

Angelo began to shudder. “I - I - I can’t” he wailed, and repeated this several times. He tried to pull on his arms, but his still-broken limbs couldn’t exert force. The amount of blood had been about right. Moreover they still hurt, and he screamed.

Martin waited for a break. “You think that now,” he said. “Will you think the same as the sun kisses your cheeks and chest?”

More screeching followed, but always with a purpose. There remained a mind in control. After a couple of minutes it ceased its struggle. “I’m sorry,” Angelo now said, turning his head more or less in Robert’s direction. “I was told to lair at your house. I didn’t mean to kill her - I didn’t think I had drunk that much.”

Martin saw Robert’s lips tighten, and he drew the tarp back even further.

“I was meant to stay there for five nights and then leave. To try to get to Liverpool, and after that, Bristol. Please!” The last was said with a more frenzied edge - the predawn light was almost day.

Robert looked at Martin, who raised his eyebrows. He then regarded the strange figure before him, and started to roll up the tarp. He said nothing.

“I don’t think my colleague is impressed, Angelo.”

“But .. but .. but …” Watching Angelo so closely Martin could tell the very moment the first glimmer of true sunlight landed directly on the Italian. His protestations suddenly cut short with a higher pitched yowl that was torn from him. As he paused for breath a little twist of smoke appeared above his skin.

He screamed again, long and shrill, like a demented bird joining the morning chorus.

Angelo took breath again. “Genevieve. Genevieve. She said her name-” he screamed again, and most puffs of smoke appeared about him. “Genevieve! Genevieve!” He howled, writhing in the irons, straining, screeching.

Martin glanced at Robert, who was looking down at Angelo as the latter started to smolder. His mouth was curled tight and his face stretched, delight and horror combined.

Robert took up the rolled tarp. “Not enough for me,” he spat at the crying creature. Angelo heard - for his cries renewed with a more terrible vigour - and the smell of burning flesh filled their nostrils as ash started to plume from his burning skin.

With a jerk of his arms Robert unfurled the tarp, and let it fall over Angelo. The fires extinguished as soon as shadow hit them, and sensing mercy the figure stilled instantly.

Robert knelt down next to the head, and Martin approached. The entire body appeared to be covered. Martin lifted the edge of the tarp up just a little - enough to speak into, and Martin heard him say, “But perhaps it is enough for my Master.”
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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So they're going after the son as well? Blood is powerful after all.
 

Specialist290

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Dark deeds and dirty business. Robert seems to be taking to his newfound duties rather well, all things considered, though I suppose the opportunity for revenge against the one who killed his wife and nearly destroyed him and his family as well has helped ease the transition.
 

Nikolai

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Surprised Robert gave mercy.
 

DensleyBlair

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Interesting to see more of how service works in this world from the perspective of one newly brought into the fold. Robert evidently still has much to learn, but with Martin to teach him I feel he'll make good work of his lessons. His decision to show Angelo mercy suggests more than a little nuance to his character already.
 

El Pip

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I'm entirely unsurprised Robert showed Mercy. He is a part-lobotomised* thrall, of course he is going to do what best serves his Master's interests (keep Angelo alive for future questioning, bargaining chip, etc) rather than show any actual free will or indulge any emotion. This work is relentless darkness and grim, don't go looking for light - it will only be an oncoming train.

*He cannot remember why he tried to make sure his Son was safe and wants his child out of the way so he can better serve the Master. Sure negligent parents exist, but this is a parent who made the effort even in extreme circumstances and is now 'slightly lost' trying to work out why they ever cared about their child. That is at best some quite serious brain damage, if not worse.