Please enjoy this brief 600-word story, inspired by a prompt from my writing Discord.
Pytir knew it was a dream. Only in a dream would he face down his brother, his heir, the only light in the darkness that was his life. Only in a dream would he strike him down in a gilded morgue, as though it was a suitable place to die.
Waking from his nightmare offered no relief.
He’d tried for so many years not to see what was happening before his eyes. He turned his face away every time, turned his back on the helpless women who’d fallen under his brother’s spell.
Trelen wasn’t violent, never that. His was a silent wrath, deft hands making quick work of a mewling girl, manipulating her until she was as malleable as soft clay in his grasp. Then he’d throw the girls away, smiling as their tears glistened on their faces, dismissing them from service and sending them to another village out of his sight.
Pytir thought Trelen was addicted to the game of it. His brother was more than capable of spending his life in service to his estate, helping Pytir complete the tasks that were his to finish. But instead, Trelen spent his days either with his girls or out hunting. Everything was a game for him.
“I’m not old yet,” Pytir would try to tell himself. “I have time to change his ways. I’ll request his aid next month. Let him be young a while longer,” he’d say.
But next month never came. Instead it would pass, the months turning into years and while Pytir did not age as normal men aged, the waste of it all got to him. Seventeen years of games and women and hundreds of dead animals brought for opulent feasts for no discernible occasion, and Pytir had nothing to show for any of it.
Nothing, save the corpses of animals and barrels of tears.
Tonight he’d try again. Trelen had dismissed another girl last night, a raven-haired seamstress apprenticed to his tailor, who wasn’t pleased with the whole thing. Trelen had crossed a line, an invisible boundary. But was it really his fault? Pytir had never expressly forbidden his dalliances, nor had he specified with whom they could occur. He couldn’t punish his brother, but perhaps it was time to abdicate a little responsibility into Trelen’s hands.
Pytir’s brown eyes glanced up at his fair-haired brother over the roasted carcass of a wild hog. He’d lost his taste for game long ago, but he thought he’d try to savor it tonight in an effort to butter up his wild brother.
“The stewards of the north and west vineyards say it’s time to take account of the barrels before we bottle the wine,” Pytir said.
“Sounds like you’ll have a full day tomorrow,” Trelen replied.
Pytir pursed his lips and took another bite. It tasted like ash. “I think you should do it. You’re younger than I am, and I’m sure it would take you no time at all.”
The heir to the estate pouted. “Counting barrels is so boring. Renaldo and Brewa have been with us for decades. We can trust their numbers.”
“That isn’t the way we do things—” Pytir began, but Trelen was already wiping his mouth with a napkin and rising to his feet.
“I’ll do it next year, brother,” he said dismissively, sweeping out of the room like a fleeing dove.
Pytir sat for a moment in silence before throwing his fork against the far wall. The clatter echoed but was unheard by either of the two brothers as he left through the other door.
Another year of this. Another year, wasted like so much tasteless pork.