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Refusing to See the Darkness by Ialie

Winner for July 2022

"Discerning between true and untrue perspectives is the root of Wisdom."

  Lady Maylea, the Tenets of Quietude


Content warning: This work of cautionary fiction contains imagery and subjects related to toxic relationships, substance abuse, mob violence and execution. 





The origin of this short story comes from a study of the Nine Serene Truths of Lady Maylea. I contemplated Wisdom and Perspective and derived a story that may have been born from my own experiences but has also been borrowed from those around me. It can be hard to see the darkness in those we love, but we must see it. Whether we seek to heal or walk away, it cannot be overlooked or hidden, or the darkness will consume us all.


Refusing to See the Darkness


It was not easy for Rethmien to practice his craft. He was older now, and his eyesight had gone bad. Over the years, he had also gained a reputation for being a charlatan. It would not be easy to start over. He would have to start from the beginning, finding a new peasant town that would believe his promises for a better future. Perhaps he had lingered here for too long, or he had been too greedy and eager to pocket easy gold from the downtrodden.

He looked over at the burned-out wreckage of his former home. It was eerily quiet now as the morning light approached. Just hours ago, the night was filled with sounds of rage and fire. He could still hear the echoes of frothy curses in his mind. They had found him and made him pay for his crimes. Well, they thought they had found him. An easy smirk played over his features. They had no idea he was among the rabble as they marched up to his home. Disguised as a commoner, merely one of the rabble, he wielded his pitchfork alongside the mob and watched as they barred the door and threw flaming debris through his precious windows. It did not take long for the lavish wooden home to go up in flames or to hear the screams of the poor soul they had trapped inside, believing it was him.


In the first light of day, Rethmien alone walked through the charred remains of an unrecognizable heap of burned lumber and furniture. This room had been his parlor; though no one else would have known, he recognized the burned frame of his portrait hanging haphazardly on the wall. Shuffling through ash and dying embers, he bent low, groaning as he strained his back to move a piece of fallen wood. Black soot stained his fingers as he threw it aside.


"There you are." He sighed as he looked down at a burned, lifeless body. By now, it was unrecognizable, blackened, twisted, and misshapen by fire.


Despite himself, his eyes misted, imaging the beauty of the man before him. "I told you I would ruin you."


In these last few months, Rethmien had allowed himself to indulge in this young man as his plan came to fruition. Dlatain was the town's young minister, new in his faith but filled with an overabundance of passion and devotion for the esteemed pantheon they followed. Once Rethmien had charmed and gained Dlatain's favour, the rest of the town had easily followed. Dlatain's love for him has been sweet and carefree. He had been so eager for acceptance and attention that he overlooked his flawed past and believed the tale Rethmien had spun about being a changed man. The purity of Dlatain's heart had even given Rethmien pause. He had risked months of planning, and in the heat of the moment, in a rare show of kindness, he gave Dlatain a single warning.


Lying together in bed, Rethmien had kissed the crown of Dlatain's head and sighed. "You should run while you can. I ruin everything I touch."


Dlatain had only laughed and interlaced his fingers with his. "I will never run from you, always to you."


Dlatain had worked so hard not to see the darkness. Even forgiving Rethmien when he hurt him. The fool had thought it was virtuous not to see the darkness that was clearly there.



Within the wreckage of the present, Rethmien reached down to caress the charred face. "You should have-" His body suddenly tensed as his fingers passed through the skull.


Rethmien froze. "An illusion," he whispered as his eyes widened with realization.


"Do not worry. He is safe, not that you would care." A voice called out from behind him.


"He trusted you, believed in you. Dlatain told us not to believe the rumors of what you did to us."


"Truly, he was the only person who kept you alive."  One of the townspeople said before they overtook him.


Rethmien did not doubt that Dlatain had begged them to spare him. He was counting on it, but he had stayed too long.



He gazed throughout the town square as they dragged him to the funeral pyre. They truly wanted him to burn. Yes, he had stayed too long. He looked over at the poorly maintained buildings. He had bled this town near dry. The glamour of his illusions had been fading and flickering, and now they had him bound. He could no longer maintain the fragile hold to his magic that allowed them to pretend that all was well.


They were happy to pretend. He thought with scorn, as long as their bellies were full and their blood sang with his special poppy and okorushi blend. However, now that the well that hosted the town's tainted water supply had dried, the town people were no longer satisfied with his dreams and promises. They emerged from their slow, pleasant euphoria with the quick, violent rage of withdrawal, and they wanted him to burn for what they lost or truly never had.


Why had he stayed?


The question burned at him as they threw kindling at his feet.


Where had he gone wrong?


He could barely hear the crowd that had swarmed around him, seething with anger and vitriol. His mind was quiet. He saw their mouths moving and felt the hatred that pulsed through the crowd, but he knew he was already dead. He took these final moments to wonder about his mistake.


Where had he gone wrong?



In his last moments, he held on to his self-centeredness, not even having the grace to give his victims his attention as they took their vengeance.


He heard the crackling of the kindling now. Soon, he would feel the unrelenting heat of the flames.


A voice suddenly rang out through the crowd. "This is wrong. Look at him!"


Rethmien turned his gaze, following the sound of the voice. He saw him then, his Dlatain and his golden hair of curls bouncing as he came rushing forward to save him.


 "He is a prince! He is an angel! He will guide us if you let him!" Dlatain cried in a screeching voice as he gestured wildly towards Rethmien.


Dlatain fought his way through the crowd, finding the strength to throw off those that would hold him back. However, even Rethmien recoiled when he saw the crazed look in Dlatain's eyes.


"He will save us! He will save me!" The roar of the fire drowned out the rest of Dlatain's testimony as he threw himself on the fire, sacrificing himself for nothing as the fire consumed the both of them. 




This story is a work of cautionary fiction that was written during the contemplation and expression of Wisdom and Perspective, one of Lady Maylea's nine Serene Truths. When considering wisdom, one must truly consider the information they have and come to the realization of what truly lies before them. With wisdom, one can stand firm against deceit, perceive the truth, and act upon what is right. Guided by wisdom, one recognizes that everyone has a different perspective but also knows that some perspectives are obscured or even blinded by internal or external influences. 


This story also contains elements of a toxic relationship. In such a relationship, it can be difficult to see the hurt and harm caused. If you or anyone you know is suffering in a toxic relationship, it is important to seek help from friends and family. The abuser may make their partner feel isolated and alone, but some people, even strangers, will help if guided to resources. Those affected by toxicity may also feel that their emotions are invalid or are not entitled to feel a certain way. However, one must be allowed to express their emotions; everyone has a right to their feelings, and allowing oneself to feel and experience their emotions may lead to healing or the needed end to a relationship. Lastly, please ensure that those affected by toxicity know that the toxicity is not their fault and that they deserve happiness and a life free from harm.