Short Story Challenge 2: Sic Semper Tyrannis - The Loresworn Order

Aug
04

Short Story Challenge 2: Sic Semper Tyrannis

The Loresworn Short Story Challenge is a regular column in which a member of our team presents another with a writing prompt, or one is chosen from the community. In this edition, D.M. puts a supernatural spin on two of the most notorious assassins in American history.

“Useless, useless…”

For years, the plebeians would kick around the meaning of that statement. Most agreed that I was lamenting my own grand failure; that despite putting a bullet in the head of the President of the United States, John Wilkes Booth failed to save his beloved Confederacy. They were wrong. My disappointment in the callow American was very real. I had always maintained that the cause of the South was just, was righteous.

As I fled south to Virginia, I eagerly read the papers, anxious to see word that my actions had rallied my Confederate brothers, and had spurred those Yankees with sense to act. Such righteous anger never materialized. Indeed, wherein the Caesar of the 19th Century fell as a tyrant, he was, as was Julius, mourned as a hero. They called me the traitor. Me, the monster. Me! Useless fools. Useless plebeians. My dying words were a curse upon the masses that had so spectacularly failed to answer my call.

My act did not escape notice by interested parties, however. I awoke again, a year and a day following that night, the bullet gone from my neck, and in the presence of a dirty, shriveled old man tending a campfire.

“You called?” he cackled.

I asked the gentleman most politely what in the Hell he was prattling about.

“Sic Semper Tyrannis,” he stated, matter of factly. “You gave your life as a result of ending one greater than yours. I have use for your pluck.”

I couldn’t speak, so he continued.

“When a man takes the life of a King, he is marked, for better or for worse, a regicide. The afterlife has no place for men such as you, and such as I. Heaven is barred to us, and Hell spits our charred souls back out, so much like ash they taste.”

“I was serving my country…” I sputtered.

“It matters not, lad, what you thought you were doing. You were a young ponce who tilted at the most dynamic and important windmill of your era, and actually managed to burn it down. You are marked. It is done.”

“When a man takes the life of a King, he is marked, for better or for worse, a regicide. The afterlife has no place for men such as you, and such as I. Heaven is barred to us, and Hell spits our charred souls back out, so much like ash they taste.”

“Will I know no rest?” I moaned, despondent.

“You have but one chance at salvation, my lad. One chance to wash your slate clean before next you sleep.” He leaned forward, eyes black as night, speaking words that chilled my soul. “One hundred years or so hence, you will see me again. We will exchange no words, but you will know that you must repeat your heinous act. Regicide can only be cleansed with regicide. The blackest laws of the dark magics of the Pit can balance the equation that damns your soul, Booth, but only with more blood.

“Until that day, you will walk the streets of your changed country. You will mourn what you couldn’t prevent. You will survive, unaging, until the day comes when ours eyes meet once more.”

I wanted to ask him what would happen if I refused, but I couldn’t produce the words. He knew, and I knew. I had no choice. When the Devil offers the Damned a bargain, what is there to be lost?

And so I faded into Americana. I had to pretend to be another person, you see. Otherwise, I’d be doomed. For a time, I played a shopkeeper, broke and destitute. Then I laid track for the great railroads that came to run sea to shining sea. I later rode those rails a spell. Each journey, a new name, a new voice, a new persona. The legendary acting abilities of my family kept me beyond notice until the day came to make good my debt.

It had been not quite a century when I saw the man again, in my dreams. His face called me to my purpose.

So I traveled to Texas. I found a new weapon, one possessing of so much more frightening power than my earlier tool. I found the low ground, a grassy promontory where my the deed would be done. The next great leader and his motorcade strode the promenade before me, and with a whisper of “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, I pulled the trigger for a second time.

The deed done, I felt my eyelids grow heavy. I could only pray the Devil would keep his word. If not, I would find a way to fight back. I would throw down all those who opposed my everlasting peace. Thus always with tyrants, I’ll tell him. Thus always with tyrants.

Image Credits: Stellar background by NASA/JPL-Caltech. Cloud streaks by Sujayadhar, used under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International license. Blood effect by Nyki M, used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by NASA, JPL, or Caltech, or other image providers of this page or its contents are implied. Image composition by Brianna Hafer.

About D.M. Schmeyer

D.M. is a co-founder of The Order and co-developer of the Beyond setting, story, and characters. He is the resident renaissance man, an actor, author, gamer, JD, and martial artist, bringing his diverse interests and experiences to bear for the Order.

2 comments

  • Nathan Bohn
    Aug 4, 2015 @ 21:06 pm

    This piece caught me off guard. When John Wilkes Booth was told that he could not go to the after life and had to wander the earth by that creepy old guy, I was thinking he was going to be inducted into some kind of Assassin’s guild like in the R.I.P.D movie or something. Reminds me of the Dark Brotherhood quest line in Skyrim where you have to repay the killing of that cranky old lady in Riften (I want to say Greda the Kind?) you have to repay the Brotherhood with another kill, except with a very different result, and you’re not dead when you wake up in the Abandoned Shack.

    Reply
    • Aug 4, 2015 @ 22:28 pm

      Hey Nathan! Thanks for commenting, I appreciate your thoughts!

      A lot of thoughts were swarming through my head responding to this prompt, but I kept coming back to the killing of Lincoln, as I’d just watched a documentary including that particular subject. I like all of your ideas. Indeed, I had something similar in mind that I would have explored, given a larger word count. Just who or what offered him such a devil’s deal? What does a man who can’t die get up to for 100 years? The possibilities are endless. Some terrible penance for a great crime is an extremely common element in fantasy and fiction, and I look forward to exploring it again.

      +1 for the Skyrim reference. I’ve been meaning to replay that game for quite a while, but newer RPGs keep knocking it down my queue.

      Thanks!

      Reply

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