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Chapter 1 : Introduction
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Death sat in silence, watching as Pestilence, War, and Famine, ravaged the mortals of the world. The cacophony of suffering would inevitable raise to a tumultuous clamor of agony. Only when their sin and suffering prevailed would she don her cloak and walk amongst mortals unseen.
It was while freeing their souls she surveyed (without any contempt) those who had succumbed to sin in their folly.
Lust was the most prevalent, easily found shining in the eyes of promiscuous barmaids, all too happy to entertain strangers in hopes of a long night.
Gluttony stretched men’s stomachs into ghastly, unnatural shapes, and they waddled about like animals, too fat to be of any practical use while looking down on the orphans of the street. It saddened her to see such wasted potential in the sons of Adam.
Greed was a sly sin, tucked into corners of smiles and lurking in the subtle tones of a promise. It was exchanged in back alleyways, accompanied by the clinking of a coin, all too similar to the scurrying of rats. It smelled of sewage.
Unlike those scavenging in back alleys chasing dreams of wealth, others succumbed to their misery in silent defeat. Their limbs wasted away, and they let their brain rot from lack of use. Sloth curls to sleep in their chest, suffocating the heart, rooting desperate men and women to their beds, binding them to a slow demise of the spirit.
War of course, reveled in the birth of Wrath. The horseman always smiled his largest when a bar fight evolved into a family feud, or differing views erupted into a clashing of civilizations. Impatient men without the sense for words were easy to persuade, and quick to anger.
Envy, in contrast, was the quiet, quick little sin. Coiled tightly in the clenched jaw of a noblewoman, stretched into a side-long glance at her guest. It is there, darting back and forth to compare what she has, and what they have, and what they have that she wants. And it will never be enough. Death often sat in wonder at how an entire species could have the most enlightened and depraved individuals, often within the same neighborhood.
And finally, the most egotistical of all the sins, and probably her biggest pet-peeve: Pride. Those guilty wore it proudly on their chests, puffed up and out for all to see, so so sure of themselves and everything they could achieve. And though it reminded her of barbarism, Death was never more satisfied than when she took a prideful mortal’s life. The realization that they were not, in fact, invincible, the moment the eyes widened, and the last breath was sucked in, they were shown themselves without bias, and it was a beautiful moment.
Generally, all sins could be found in a tavern, and she tended to frequent them, watching as men and women alike gathered in some form of suffering or other. And so Death sat, solemn and reverent, watching…waiting…listening…
Antioch Peverell sat alone in a shadowy booth of his regular bar, with all the other patrons in their respective places, like most nights. The candlight flickered above, bright enough to illuminate the grim peeking out of the cracks and corners. A low grumble of men could be heard consistently; a dozen conversations overlapping like the chorus of crickets outside, like always. The only anomaly tonight was the gravedigger leaned over the counter, chatting up the barmaid who was late with Antioch’s next drink. He had explicitly told her to keep them coming, and expected to imbibe the entire night, per the usual. In spite of his request, Antioch was still sober enough to hear the last words his father said rattling around on the inside of his head. “At least you are good at what you do…” It was the nicest thing his mother could think to say on her death bed… That was it. The best quality in her oldest born.
He rapped on the table loudly, and yelled, “Oi! What’s it take to get another pint around here?” but gravedigger didn’t stop in his story and the maid didn’t glance is his direction, her blue eyes fixed to the scrawny man in front of her, as though memorizing the grime caked into every crack and crevice of his freckled skin.
Thunk Thunk Thunk, his pulse pounded a beat against his temple, vein straining under his skin. Anger suited the eldest Peverell boy much better than grief, and any small irritation was a big reason to fight in his opinion. He reveled the feeling of his blood pumping, the fire growing in his chest. He flexed his hands hard enough to crack knuckles and breathed deeply, feeling his body prime for a fight.
Finally, he stood, the wood beneath him groaning in relief, and he bent his head to avoid hitting the light fixture above it.
He had only taken a few steps when a thin, pale hand shot out from a booth to catch his arm.
Cadmus’s light green eyes looked down the long bridge of his nose at Antioch in a way that mirrored their mother. Even the disapproving pucker of his mouth was her signature expression when speaking to him.
“Do you really think that’s necessary?” the middle brother sneered. “If you really need a drink, have mine.” He offered a tankard to Antioch, who pushed it away.
“It’s not so much the drink I want now,” he growled, stalking away. It was too late now.
A little drunk himself, Cadmus said, “You know, this is why they had me. They knew you’d turn out like this.” But Antioch didn’t turn around, and the gravediggers nose was broken instead.
Ignotus, having watched the exchange from afar, frowned a little as Cadmus downed the tankard he had previously offered Antioch, and staggered back to his seat, muttering under his breath as Antioch abused the gravedigger, his classmate. He chose a seat across from his inebriated brother.
“And why did they have me?” he asked Cadmus, attempting to sound jovial. “If you fulfilled all their broken dreams then.” It was a jest, but Cadmus answered without humor.
“You were an accident, my baby brother. And one that I scarcely think they took notice of, save when you dropped out of mother with a wail.” The sting had Ignotus gritting his teeth, but it was true. They had hardly paid attention to him after that moment. “You shouldn’t be here,” Cadmus finally added after a long pull of ale. “You aren’t old enough yet.”
“Where are the twins?” Ignotus asked instead quickly, trying to distract Cadmus from his grief and change the subject. As he wasn’t yet seventeen, he wasn’t exactly supposed to be in the tavern. Not that he liked the taste of ale anyways.
“At home. Nora, from down the street, has agreed to nurse them for me, and she’s there now. Told her I’d come try and talk to him,” he gestured behind them at the tangle of limbs and dirt that represented their elder brother. “Didn’t think I’d end up joining him.”
Ignotus looked around, and noted just how many people had come to drown memories of the dead. Too many wore grief in the wrinkles of their brow, frowning into mugs.
Cadmus just had more memories to forget than most. First Iloli was taken with the birth of the girls, and then his son, Ean, and finally mother in the sickness. He went from a happily married father with a golden son to a widower with newborn twins. No one recovered from a fall from grace like that with their dignity intact. Sure enough, the last gulp of ale choked him, spilling the foul liquid down his front, and a bubble of laughter escaped his lips. It was the lowest Ignotus had ever seen him. Cadmus glanced at the bar again, watching as Antioch finally let the poor gravedigger up, and grunted at the barmaid for another drink.
“He has everything,” Cadmus hissed in a whisper that Ignotus struggled to hear, “everything important, and he leaves his wife at home to roll around in the dirt with anyone smaller than him. If it’s a bloke, he’ll knock him around, and if it’s not…” He paused and attempted to take another drink from the empty cup before glaring at Antioch again. “Look at how he’s watching the girl, it’s disgusting… I wish it’d been Renee. It should’ve been Renee, not Iloli...” the last words slurred, mangled by intoxication.
Ignotus kept silent, but reached under the table and took the coin purse practically falling out of his brother’s pocket. Cadmus laughed again in the grotesque mocking way that drunk men do and tried to order another drink before realizing he had nothing to pay with.
“Maybe we should get you back home,” Ignotus suggested, standing and offering a hand to his brother.
“Sounds like a great idea!” Cadmus managed to get out before falling out of the booth.
As they left, Ignotus saw Antioch leading the barmaid (who he did not consider to be a girl, but a woman) into the shadows, her small hand held tightly in his brother’s scarred, broad one. He personally felt rather bad for Renee, home by herself while her husband ran amuck.
And Death watched on in silence.
A/N: Thanks for reading the Intro! It may be a rough beginning, not sure, so let me know what you think and any improvements that could me made stylistically, and any other advice you have would be welcome!
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