Flavor Friday: Mnemonic Betrayal
Do you know betrayal is considered one of the worst fates? So much worse than a simple lie. A lie is a dagger to the heart, yes. But a true betrayal is thrice the pain of a simple lie. Although there is no such thing as a ‘simple’ lie.
Picture the scene. Ravnica, autumn. The leaves are shades of brown, gold, orange, and yellow. Wet brick roads cast distorted reflections. It seems there isn’t a period longer than twelve hours without rain. The people wear warmer clothing, longer cloaks, taller boots--at least those who can afford such niceties. Beggars in rags still beg in rags.
A shy elvish merchant selling apples tries to attract buyers, but can’t summon the strength to her voice. “Apples...For sale...Apples here...Good apples...” But she’s not her father. He’s home sick. By this point in the day he would have sold two baskets worth, maybe even three. She’s sold less than half a basket. With head hung, she shuffles the fruit around the display, trying to stay busy, ashamed of her inability to sell.
“I thought members of Selesnya were better with people than that.” A low warm voice said.
“Oh,” she looked up. “I...Um...I’m not used to...Do you want an apple?”
The man smiled, his deep hood hiding most of his face. But what was visible was the image of a man sure of himself. “No thank you. I had a good breakfast.”
Before realizing the words had been formed, they’d already left her mouth, “Are you of House Dimir?” Why had she asked it? Where had the question come from?
The man grinned. “Perceptive of you. Yes.” He gave her a short nod.
Two days later her father was well enough to run the stall. The girl asked if she could join him. Not a thing she’d ever wanted to do before. When he asked her why--there had to be a reason--she told him.
Her father laughed. “An agent of Dimir? No, my girl, no. No agent of the House would ever be honest about it.”
She believed her father. When had the Dimir ever been honest? That was not what they were known for.
Later that day she saw the man again. As he passed by she called out to him, “Sir. Excuse me, sir.” He turned, his brows lifted in question. “Why did you lie to me? Why did you tell me you were a member of Dimir?”
“Because it’s true. Why did you ask?”
She didn’t have a good answer. “I...I don’t know. Sorry to bother you.”
Day after day she would look for him. Each time they met asked him the same thing, “Are you really a Dimir agent?” Each time he would tell her that he was. No matter how many times she heard it, she didn’t believe him. After a month of this she began to think he was flirting with her. Soon she began guessing what guild he was truly a member of.
“I think you’re one of the Legion. You hold yourself so well. I don’t see the Boros mark on you anywhere, but I still think you’re one of them.”
“I assure you, I’m not.” He told her.
When she asked if he was a member the Orzhov Syndicate he only smiled. This went on for a couple of months. She asking him simple questions, he giving simple answers. When they met, few words passed between them. She too shy, and he too reserved. If he responded at all it was usually with a nod or shake of the head. Sometimes he would buy an apple, but most of the time he went his way without acknowledging her whatsoever.
His actions, what little there were, only fed her curiosity. She convinced herself he was not part of Dimir. Eventually she decided he was part of her own guild, Selesnya. It was all some kind of a test, it had to be.
Who’s to blame when no lie has been told and still a betrayal takes place? Should the girl have been wiser? Should the Dimir agent been more clear?
One night, on her way home from a candle shop, the girl saw a misshapen figure halfway down a dark alley. The figured moved as if suffering from convulsions. She watched, transfixed. Soon she saw that it was not one figure, but two. One fell to the ground in a lump, hitting the brick road with an awful sound. The other stood tall and headed towards her. She recognized the stride. She’d looked for it every day for the past three months. It was him.
“No,” she said under her breath. “But...No, you’re. What did you do?” she asked.
“Killed a man. I needed his information, not his life.”
Her mind snapped. He hadn’t been lying. He was a Dimir agent, but she’d refused to accept it. It went against everything she knew. The Dimir lied, they were cowardly thieves skulking about in the dead of night. They didn’t tell the truth, why had he? No, it didn’t make sense. He was still lying.
“You still refuse to believe me, hm?” Finger by finger he pulled the glove off his right hand. “Let me show you.” He touched her head.
Visions flooded her mind. She saw death, murder, kidnappings. Secrets, lies, and, yes, truth too. All mixed. Artful takedowns, unexplained disappearances, deadly visits. “I-I...” she swallowed. “It doesn’t...But why would you...You didn’t lie?”
“I’m a Dimir agent, love, not a sociopath.” He headed down the road, leaving her behind.
On her knees, she shook her head in confusion. She couldn’t understand it. For as long as she’d been alive she’d been told that the Dimir never spoke truth. It was as much a fact to her as stone is hard. Sitting there, she wondered what else she’d been wrong about. Her mind reeled. It was too much. The images he’d shown her wouldn’t leave, playing through her mind again and again.
Hours later, her father found her shivering and mumbling nonsense.
Story written by Delio Pera. You can read more of his writing here.
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