Servitors of Dominic: Behind the Music
I found old Protheil at the Chanticleer. That startles people -- what's a Servitor of Judgement doing hanging out in a bar? But people forget that Dominic's angels are... well, angels. They have something of a social life, or at least fake one.
"Hey, old timer." He looked up at me when I said that. Protheil always looks about twenty-two, but he's been around since before Achilles gave Hector free Chiropody. I like to say it gets Protheil's goat, except nothing really does. That's why I like Elohim so much. They're so fun.
"Tansit," he said simply, holding a steaming mug and sipping from it. He looked mildly disturbed, which for even the average Elohite was like saying he was foaming at the mouth. I guess if you get close to Elohim -- really close -- they let their hair down. They take a chance at letting their feelings out a little. Dangerous for them, but they have feelings, and they can't completely deny them even if they refuse to be guided by them.
"Look," I said. "I just want you to know -- I don't hold the interrogation against you. At all. I mean, I know people say that but I wouldn't be down here if I didn't mean it. I mean, you know -- places to do, people to be...."
"I know an Ofanite or two," he said. "I do know the pattern."
"Yeah. Yeah... well, that's good. Really good. Hey, I'm gonna -- hey, what're you drinking? I mean, it's smoking."
"Steaming. It's hot water."
I must have blinked or something, because he got a slightly pained look on his face. "I like hot liquids. They help clear my thoughts. After a time, I realized all I wanted was the heat, not the taste, so I began getting boiling water when I was out at a place."
"Hey. Hey, sure. Sure, that makes sense. Look, I don't mean to talk out of turn, but you seem off, man."
"'Off.'" The tone made it a statement, but I think he meant it as a question.
"Yeah. Yeah, you don't seem your normal self. I mean -- I know it must have been bad for you. I mean, Bennett was our friend, you too. And I think it's pretty horrid too, you know. I mean, sure he had discord, but he was a Malakite and he could have taken it, so I don't see why--"
"I was Bennett's Inquisitor," he said. "Alain his Judge. Raymond his Executioner. We the Triad investigated, judged, and executed Bennett before God's Law. I have neither second thoughts nor regrets as to the sentence."
I know I blinked that time. "Oh," I said. I didn't know what to say. I could have let my mouth run for a while but that didn't seem appropriate.
"You are shocked."
"Well... he was your friend, man, and I know he saved your life more than once, and you're saying you don't mind that you and the rest of the Triad killed him?"
"I will mourn the angel who was my friend, in my own way and time," Protheil said. "That mourning did not bear on my recommendation or vote or our decision, and does not cause me to question them." He looked down at his mug. "The Malakite Bennett was would have thanked us. The dissonant and discordant shell he had become will not make me guilty."
"Oh." It seemed inadequate. "Um... I don't mean to offend or get into your business or anything--"
"Well... are you okay? I mean, I know you're okay but you seem bummed out - all vaguely goth-like depressed and junk. I know, I probably don't understand but it seemed like I should ask."
"Mm. Am I all right? Yes, I am." He looked in the mug again, like an amateur fortune teller reading tea leaves. "I am undergoing a rigorous examination of all the necessary viewpoints that I can understand to help alleviate my tremendous depression, rage and fear. By isolating causes, I can more effectively reduce the emotions to their proper place."
"Depressed? Angry? You? I mean -- I know, you're an Elohite so we don't see it, but... *why* are you feeling like that? I mean, if you're not upset about Bennett--"
"Mm. Perhaps discussing my reaction with you will help to provide the necessary context for my emotions." He sat back. "Do you know how hard it is to serve Judgement?"
"I... never thought about it."
"Well... Servitors of Judgement always seem so holier-than-thou -- no pun intended. They have this smug little look, and it's like they're always looking you over, top to bottom, looking to see if your shirt's untucked or if you're not skipping the approved Angelic skip or something. I mean, you look like you enjoy your work so much."
"Enjoy our work." He sipped the water again, holding it in his mouth for a long moment. "There is a kind of joy in serving the perfection of God, but I doubt it's any more joyful than one of Novalis's Servitors planting flowers or Michael's get striking someone on the head with a blunt object or the like. And yes, there is a pleasure in the chase sometimes, in the investigation, in bringing the hidden into the light."
He looked at me then. "But none of my fellows that I have ever met has ever become dulled to what we have been charged to do. Each and every one of them knows that we are constantly examining our fellow angels -- the works of God, the bright trills in the Symphony. Each of us is aware that our choices can lead not only to a good, kind and bright angel being brought to humiliation among his kind... but can lead to an Angel's destruction, his forces being pulled apart, his quiet instrument in the Symphony being made silent. That is a terrible, terrible thing, Tansit."
"But... why do you all act so stuck up then? Why all the leading questions and little tiny smiles and... why?"
Protheil shrugged slightly. "We need to maintain a detachment. We need to remind those around us that we are Servitors of Judgement. That our eyes are upon them. It is better to point out the smallest of flaws and the quietest notes of dissonance than to hold our tongues and let an Angel be brought before the full power of the Inquisition. And the Inquisition, even should we order the destruction of an Angel, is ten thousand times better than letting that Angel Fall. It is worse than merely having a trusted ally become a hated enemy, taking his knowledge with him. It is the certain, horrible knowledge that our failure led to that soul becoming what it hates and fears most."
I nodded. I didn't know what to say to something like that.
He looked into his hot water again. "Have I been a good companion, in my time on Earth with you, Tansit?"
"Huh? Sure -- I mean, you're annoying sometimes but everyone can be annoying sometimes."
"True enough. The others have accepted me, it seems. Yes?"
"Well, sure. It took a little while but I think people warmed to you -- I mean, it always takes a while for a new guy to get in good with a group of--"
"Quite." His voice was dry. He was looking into that water so intensely I expected it to part like the Red Sea. "They hate me, Tansit."
"What? Now, that's a little harsh--"
"No." He looked up at me. "No, it's not. I can feel the tenor of their emotions. They had grown to accept me, until my Triad stood in Judgement over Bennett. Each of them feels that Bennett deserved to live. Deserved another chance. And only 'that bastard' Dominic and his hateful, spiteful Servitors and that traitor Protheil would have thought otherwise. And we killed him. Tore his forces from his body and scattered them. And Bennett withstood it."
He drank the rest of the water. "I wanted his answers to be different, Tansit. I wanted him to be redeemable. I wanted the risk to be lower than the benefit, the hope. I wanted so much to look my fellows in the eye and have us agree to some form of penance, of other work. To bring him to Laurence and have him cleansed, somehow. But they weren't, Tansit. He hated his Discord, but he did not hate the causes. He was moving further and further, cracking his heart. I did... what my duty, my charge, and my 'joy' is. And those I call friend hate me for it, and will continue their black hatred for all the Servitors of Judgement for who knows how long."
He seemed more serene now. "Thank you, Tansit. I have indeed examined all the viewpoints more clearly in the telling."
"Yes. It is wrong of me to expect anyone but a Servitor of Judgement to understand the pains and glories of that service. And it is wrong for me to expect anyone else to see what we do and have done in terms other than the pain they feel. I must remember this, always. It is a part of our burden to be hated, not their burden to like us."
"Oh. That... that seems so wrong, though...."
"Perhaps it is, and perhaps it is not." He rose. "Within a few days, Dominic shall visit me as he always does. I will speak on these things with him, and receive his judgement upon me, lest my emotions become dissonant within me."
"That's brave," I said. "I mean, you're practically inviting him to... I mean...."
"I know what you mean," Protheil said quietly. "I believe in Dominic's judgement, Tansit. And whether you believe it or not, I think it is good and selfless. And if the pain and fatigue of forever having to find fault in those I love and be hated by those I would call friend are difficult for me... I cannot help but think how infinitely heavier they weigh upon him."
I sat there for a long time after Protheil had left. Almost six minutes. Then I tore out for the Heights. I needed some speed and some distance from what I'd heard.
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