Sepulchre stared at the Prince’s sword. “And he will be wanting it for the Senate meeting tomorrow?” he asked Gravedust.
“Indeed,” answered his fellow.
Sepulchre let out a sudden hiss. “Does he understand the difficulties involved in his… play-acting? Those little displays of his are not easy to achieve!”
Gravedust remained immobile. “But our duty is to allow him to achieve them,” he stated simply.
“Amongst other things,” noted Sepulchre. “We are being wasted on these little follies.”
“Does the hammer choose its task, brother?” recited Gravedust. “Does the knife protest that it is cutting bread when it could be engaged in weightier matters?”
“It is not these matters weight that I am concerned about,” replied Sepulchre. “It is their necessity.”
Gravedust merely regarded his fellow. “That is for Grandmaster Radiance to consider. Not you.”
Sepulchre nodded. “I understand. Nonetheless, my misgivings remain.” He peered at Gravedust closely. “Do not tell me you do not feel it as well.”
The other Stylite stood there, quiet and still for a long moment. “I shall get the prima material.” Gravedust turned and left the room.
Sepulchre busied himself with his preparations, writing the runes and completing the circle. Work of this sort was good in difficult moments; Sepulchre could lose himself--or what little of himself remained, anyway--in the delicate curve of sigils, the intricate web of meaning that lay in every circle, the subtleties of the Forbidden Art…
It was a sin on his part of course, to find any enjoyment from the curse that Douma Dalkiel had afflicted upon him. But he was Damned, and thus some sins were inevitable.
Gravedust entered with the prima material, nestled in his arms. Sepulchre regarded the boy for a moment. “He sleeps?”
“I gave milk, laced with poppy extract,” replied the Stylite.
Sepulchre regarded his fellow for a moment. “And what else?” he asked.
Gravedust was silent for a moment. “A lemon cake,” he declared at last. “And an apple.” He shifted nervously under Sepulchre’s gaze. “The boy was hungry. I found him in an alleyway, sifting through trash.”
Sepulchre nodded. “Lay him in the circle.” As Gravedust placed the boy there, Sepulchre turned and readied his paints. “They have alleys here?”
“Yes, and also trash,” said Gravedust. “But they do their best to hide it.”
Sepulchre grumbled as he began to paint the symbols onto the boy’s skin. “I should have expected that. Really, these are such a foolish people.” He stared at the child for a moment. “What is the boy’s name?”
“He called himself Corrin,” replied Gravedust. “But I do not know if that was his given name. Neither did he.”
Sepulchre picked up his knife. “Begin the chanting.” As Gravedust recited the words, he raised the knife expertly to the boy’s throat, then, at the right moment, slit it. The blood flowed into the circle which began to glow with a ruddy light.
“Bring the sword,” said Sepulchre, nodding slightly. They were born damned, the Stylite reminded himself. That damnation had to be used, or the Darkness would win. And if unseemly acts were performed…
Well, they were born damned.