This short story is based off the backstory of one Dolphus Gorov, a character in the Boards RP Tales of Glory and Valor . I would highly recommend joining if you like to write.
One, two, three, the beats of the heart were counted.
Dolphus could feel them through his hand. One, two three, and over again, the royal blue ceiling beaming from above. Yes, royal blue, that was the color. Why was this particular shade considered royal? Because he was a Gorov, in the line of the inheritance of wealth, cared for and pampered like royalty. These factors would undoubtedly be reason enough for any other Gorov, but Dolphus had a much better justification for the title, carried in the spoken words of a voice like silk.
“Because you are royal to me, Dolphus. You are my sweet prince.”
One, two, three, the beats of the heart were counted through the extended finger. Her face framed in ebony hair, with eyes reflecting the infinite cosmos, her voice continued to caress with compliments drawn from the sweetest vocabulary that ever graced the ears of mortals. Yes, the plethora of insignificant gods could not compare to the genuine emotion and power this voice carried, ripping away at every foundation and stronghold that could conceivably close him off.
And then that face was stolen away, and replaced by a much harder face. One that still showed love and adoration, but it seemed… Impersonal. As if the love was not directed at him, but to his being there. The eyes that looked down were not the infinite cosmos with sparkling stars, but just the darkness in between. They had no shimmering lights, only coldness and emptiness.
But then the shining eyes returned once more, to carry him from his cradle and into the vastness of the world, with sights, smells, and splendor beyond anything his imagination could concoct. The world was not so empty then, there was light and warmth reflecting from every sight, surface, and sound. All pain melted away at the gentleness of her touch, all woes and troubles were washed away, every care was placed in her hands, every worry and fear kept hidden in her heart, where it could never hurt him.
One, two, three, the beats of her heart.
Then, no more.
No pain could compare to that feeling, to holding on to a feeble finger and feel that pressure cease. The ivory grip of the reaper had taken the dearest treasure of the world, that precious heart, and Dolphus would always remember the moment it was taken from him - the sensation, the crushing realization that the world was not warm and joyous, but all things had reflected what he had seen. A solemn room of mourners stood about her, sadness flowing from their eyes and their lungs, but Dolphus’ eyes were empty, and his mouth drew shut.
Without the stars, the night is just emptiness. Now, without that heart, Dolphus saw no more stars in the sky that night, or any night from then on. Only the darkness that filled the gaps.
“Sit here, Dolphus.”
The collar was a bit silly, Dolphus had to admit. But instructions would be followed, and always to the letter. He sat with perfect posture upon the velvet stool, his eyes bearing no emotion, wearing that ridiculous puffy collar and looking dead into the eyes of that poor man he was seated across from. The strong deserved respect, the weak deserved ridicule, and if this man could not withstand the coming assault, he was indeed a weak man.
The rounded nose and black brows of Gregor Gorov entered his peripheral vision - his father always had remarkably striking features, his rather rotund body accentuated by his sunken cheeks and muscular hands, as he relapsed into a large ornate chair seated to the left of Dolphus - he always insisted on keeping Dolphus at his right side, to make the chain of power painfully clear.
“See, Braemus boy, I understand the importance of family.” Gregor smiled, his horrible grin mostly consisting of puffy lip and insincere eyes. “I know how much this family has lost - and let’s abandon semantics, as none of the gods desired us to use semantics in good speech - how much the world has lost with the death of the delicate Madame Gorov better than anyone. You have no idea how deeply it has affected my boy Dolphus to be there when his mother expired.”
“We all felt the loss of your wife, sir.” The worried young man, Ventel Braemus, replied. Dolphus understood that Ventel served in some capacity with his father’s finances, however he must have done something utterly reprehensible, as Gregor never had Dolphus appear in his interviews unless he was about to break someone down so thoroughly they could never piece themselves together again.
“And it is in the best respects of your wife that I must still refuse to sign this agreement.” He continued, adjusting his collar - a fatal mistake when meeting with Gregor. From that moment on the young man before him was already dead. “I understand the impossible burden laid upon your shoulders with the west political assembly occurring in only a matter of days, but this would give you complete and unfettered access to all of your wife’s finances, which directly contradicts her will.”
Gregor snapped his fingers, and a man from the back of the room approached. He was Dolphus’ uncle, Pyotr Gorov, who worked in the crude trade of shipping, and who virtually worshiped the actions of his brother Gregor, in the ruthlessness of his dealings and the efficiency of his ploys. He approached and poured his elder brother a glass of white wine.
“Mister Braemus, was it? I hope to remember you after this meeting.” Gregor sipped from the glass, the foam sparkling on his fat chin and angular moustache. “Your interests directly coincide with mine. Where in the will does it expressly communicate where the rights cannot be transferred from the deceased to her husband, inheritor of all her possessions aside from financial?”
“On the last page, I quote:
'In no capacity will Gregor be allowed to handle or possess my finances with his own accounts or by any bank. Your hands are tied, Mister Gerov.”
It was unclear to Dolphus if the mispronunciation or the insinuation that he had been bested seemed to upset him more, but there was a furious warmth beneath his father’s countenance the young guest did not seem to perceive. “Tell me, mister Braemus, how many children do you have?”
“Five.” Ventel responded, unaware his head was already in the noose.
“I have a pigeon letter from a good friend of mine.” Gregor unfolded a square of paper from his waistcoat and scanned it with his eyes. “‘The littlest one was at the window, and I could see two more playing in the room beyond. I think the target saw me - gave such a start that it could be little else, but nobody would believe so delicate a child.’ I believe, if this is correct, that he was looking through your window, sir.”
The financier across the carpet has become white as a sheet before Gregor had even finished reading. The davenport he sat upon seemed to shudder along the floor from his reaction. “Sir, what are you implying by this insidious-”
Gregor gave a wicked grin in reply, amused with the financier’s discomfort. “Sir, please don’t- Don’t hurt them!” There was no response to his pleading cry, the odious smile of the widower reflected somewhat in the smug grin of his brother. In desperation the man jumped off his seat and dove for the master Gorov’s throat, but the white wine happened to upset directly into the fellow’s face with a simple flick of the wrist. He fell, sputtering, onto the floor, looking for some sign of sympathy in either of the brothers to his plight. When he found none, he turned on Dolphus.
And then with a thrill the young man on the floor realized how deep he had fallen. The youngest Gorov gave him no emotion at all, just a lifeless, even soulless stare, reflecting all he saw in the world. Whereas Dolphus was cold to others he was well and truly dead towards this Ventel, all the emptiness of the cold, black sky seeping forth from his sockets. They spoke a silent sound, You do not exist - as Dolphus stared right through the young man and into the other side of the world, and beyond.
“Sign the paper, sir, and address my dear Dolphus as the beneficiary.” Gregor reclined. “Tomorrow you may also attend the meeting, and your generosity will be spoken of highly, since you so ensured the boy was looked after financially.” As he spoke he turned the note towards Pyotr, who immediately broke into an unnerving, high-pitched cackle, which only further cemented the horror of the family into Ventel’s mind.
Dolphus, however, kept his eyes locked on the young Braemus. He knew, as he had known countless times before in other interviews, that the paper was blank.
“Why am I alone?”
The Swordmaster stopped his motions. The question was in a manner not unbecoming of a child, and yet, it seemed to catch the old duelist off-guard. “Dolphus, that provides too little information. Repeat yourself, with clarity.”
“Why am I alone, in the world?”
The swordmaster applied a piece of adhesive to the bandage roll and severed it from the rest, patting it into place on Dolphus’ arm. Outside of magic, medical technology had not greatly advanced during the last few hundred years, and the greatest threat to any would was the threat of infection with an unknown plethora of diseases.
“When speed is applied without clarifying control, the point will miss its mark.” The Swordmaster commented, citing an old adage on the profession of swordplay. “Hillthiar the Quick was referring to more than just combat when he wrote that. You present the question too quickly, Dolphus. I cannot answer with so little information.”
“I feel-” Dolphus began, his face upsetting with emotion for a moment before the Gorov mask settled back in place. He rolled his sleeve down over the applied bandage on his forearm and buttoned the cuff. “Forgive me, Swordmaster, for I spoke out of place. It was not right of me to interject- to present such a topic that-”
“Dolphus.” The Swordmaster’s face was very stern, surprising Dolphus with his interruption. “You do not leave a gentleman hanging. Speak as you intended to speak.”
Dolphus looked at the pearl on the pommel of his sword. It seemed to exist in an infinite sea of crystal, just transparent enough that the endless possibilities of what could exist beyond that glassy layer were left to the imagination. Perhaps a miniature field of snow, or the kind of dust the galaxies were made of.
“I could reach out into the depths of darkness and hold the stars in my hand.” Dolphus mumbled softly. “She understood I could do this. That’s why she was there. Her eyes were the gateway to the stars and I could reach in and grasp, hold, every single one of them like white, shining specks of light. They- they were her gift, her greatest treasure to blanket the world in splendor.”
The Swordmaster was thoroughly flabbergasted at the sudden shif in tone. “Dolphus, I understand how you must feel about this, but I assure you it is perfectly natural for a boy your age to start to have feelings about-”
“But she was the only one!” Dolphus snapped. “I’ve lived for twelve entire years, and there’s no one else in the world - I couldn’t have had a brother, or- or a sister, or anyone! She’s gone, and she took the stars with her!” Dolphus smacked his hand against his knee, tears beginning to take up residence in his eyes. “Now there’s not so much light in the universe as there is darkness in between the lights.”
There was a tense silence in which the Swordmaster seemed to wait with an infinite level of patience and some sadness reflecting in his pupils. “I couldn’t feel anything before I saw them, and now- now with the world so dark, I can’t find anyone else. Only this all-encompassing darkness that… I can feel…”
Dolphus sniffed and forced his tears back down. The door of the building opened, and the Swordmaster’s eyes fiercely turned to see who approached. It was the one man who never listened to any of his warnings or properly respected the sanctity of his training grounds - the elder Gorov looked around with his hands in his pockets, making it clear he had no intention of approaching or of even making eye contact with the old master.
“Tell me,” Dolphus lowered his voice even further, worried his father might hear as his reddened lids suppressed the water behind them. “Why do I have to be alone?”
Gregor turned Dolphus around by the shoulder. “You look like an idiot with your collar crooked. Hold still.” He proceeded to make it worse while under the impression it had been significantly improved by his masterful touch.
“Why did you and mother not have any more children?” Dolphus, asked, not really thinking about the impropriety imposed by such a question until after it had left his mouth. Gregor was a sharp wit, however, and his answer crept forth out of the bowels of his tongue just as casually as the question had been prompted.
“Everything I own, and everything your mother owned will belong to one man, and one only.” Gregor replied, shining, an apple on his waistcoat and then biting half of it off.* “The Gorov family you know consists of my brothers; every one of them is a ravenous predator who will take as much of the existing wealth of the family as they can, the moment someone drops into the coffin.”
“And this trait is not exclusive to the Gorovs,” He went on, stuffing the rest of the apple into his maw and tossing the stem into the middle of the room. “Every entrepreneur who has dealt financially with any Gorov knows the ruthlessness of the industry; there must not be another Gorov family once this one has come and gone.”
“You, Dolphus, will be the last, and the strongest Gorov. You will possess the most wealth, hold the most power, and raise your own family with one child, as I have raised mine.” He placed an exceptionally out-of-place pointed hat on his heavily receded hairline and marched towards the door, Dolphus quickly appearing at his right side, as instructed. “And nothing will ever stop you, Dolphus. Nothing.”
As the door began to swing open, Dolphus felt he could smell the unsavory odor of lamp oil. Something fell from above the door - made of glass, likely some kind of fire potion - onto a coil of rope saturated so heavily with the stuff it shimmered in the sunlight. The explosion that followed must have been caused by blasting powder, but Dolphus did not consider the likely components of the bomb at that moment.
He could feel each drop of blood leaving his body through the mangled stump of his left arm as the world closed into darkness all around him.
One, two, three, the beats of the heart were counted.
No pain could compare.
*From here on out, Gregor’s speech has been normalized to make the ramblings of a man with half an apple in his mouth sound normal