Silence in Reproach

He poked desolately at the vase, pretending to hope that this time his finger would go through it. It didn't, as it hadn't, and he knew it wouldn't the next time either. He poked again, anyway, because he had nothing better to do and because it might - it *might* work, if he kept at it.

The vase was probably not the genuine article. Or possibly the spell had gone wrong, or had never been written down correctly to be cast right. Maybe one or more of the ingredients hadn't been sufficiently pure. Maybe the moon was in the wrong phase and the author of the book hadn't bothered writing it down because everyone *knew* you didn't cast penetration spells during a waning moon. Everyone except half-drunk, unemployed ex-Watchers, of course.

The spell wasn't working, and he no longer expected it to. He poked at the vase again and his finger met pressure, cool and smooth. Not surprisingly his finger did not break the surface tension of the dark blue glass. He pulled back and quickly touched it again, as if sneaking up on it would confound its refusal to suffer penetration.

No good.

He sat back with a sigh, finally willing to give it up. The spell was either a fake, or the ingredients imperfect, or - well, there was always that, wasn't there?

It was a simple enough spell. Should have been -- a spell he'd pulled out to test his casting ability, see what still worked and what he needed practise on. Test whether he *could* still...and apparently he could not. The simplest, most basic spell in the book -- slide solid matter through solid, easier even than conjuring a makework demon to dust his tabletops and bookshelves.

He closed the book and wondered if he had another bottle of whisky around, or if he would have to take himself out and find a package store. The need for alcohol danced behind his closed mouth and he knew it would force him out of his chair and out of his flat. Perhaps he could go now, and when he returned he could try the spell again.

Or not. He could go and come back and *not* try the spell, and save himself further failure. He could come home and get more drunk, and not think about anything, then when he woke from wherever he'd passed out, he could go through his pockets and the couch cushions and see if he had anything left over for just one more drink.

He set the spellbook aside. It had been a fair try. One straw to grasp at, a book of spells written for monks and grusag demons. It was filled with spells that might or might not be as useful as the myriad of spells he had memorised in his head, or knew the locations of in his or others' library full of books; useful or not, they would have been more than nothing.

But the spellbook was beyond him, beyond his skills. Broken and fettered to the shell of his useless body, his magic skills were no longer his to use. It left only one thing for him, once the alcohol he was going to go out to buy had worn off. He had his swords and his crossbow, and he could still wield them.

If he did so until the last claw reached his heart, so be it. He fought for no one, now, and for nothing but what little token of redemption he could scrape together. Each evil he could destroy might set up a little more balance on his soul, and remove one day from the eons waiting for him in hell.

How ironic, if not frustrating, that after everything he'd gone through he'd come here, he'd done his duty, and found only damnation.

He hung his head, vase now ignored. He'd failed them all, when all he'd wanted was to serve. Wanted their acceptance, and their friendship. But he'd destroyed that with one swift move, one decision made. One sacrifice, which he'd been told in no uncertain terms had not been his to make. A life not his to offer, yet he'd done so, and lost everything.

Now there was only his own life, to take or to give. What he did with it was of no consequence to any save the people who would come one day to clean up the abandoned flat he would leave behind.

Perhaps he would forego the purchase of the next bottle of whisky, and proceed apace with the other. Take up his sword like knights of old, climb aboard his trusty steed, and pretend he had purpose if not permission from the king.

He stood, and in so doing knocked the spellbook to the floor. He should return it to the bookseller's, perhaps. Perhaps it had been a foolish thing to purchase at all. A book of spells written for those with vows of silence, and mouthless creatures -- a novelty item for those who knew or believed such things were not real, or a real enough book made for those with skill to use it.

He set it on the table and went to his bedroom. He need only change his clothing, and fill his quiver with bolts. Then he would go out into the night and find his castigation.