Marking it Down to Learning + Chapter 19 (cont)
The Man Behind the Myth

‘Radiating' was probably not the right word. Treize still had impressive control. But even his control couldn't entirely hold on to all of those memories. His life had been agony, for a long, long time.

"Lots of burns," Polynices informed Quatre himself. "Took them years to graft all that skin back. Had a few chest wounds," he continued, gesturing to a large scar on Treize's left torso. "His legs were pretty messed up... he still limps a bit."

Quatre winced at that. He could still see Treize moving in his mind's eye, remembered the man's proud, imperious stride, the grace and strength in all his movements...

"Just a bit," Treize inserted smoothly, an edge of irritation coloring his voice. Quatre looked at him again, and saw the irritation echoed in his eyes. No, Treize would not at all like having his injuries and disabilities catalogued so cavalierly. Quatre smiled, his real smile, off-guard for a second at this evidence that Treize was still Treize, despite the trials of the last eight years, and again, those piercing blue eyes narrowed as Treize stared at him.

"And how... did he come to be here?" Quatre asked, pushing on to the question he most desired the answer to.

He was still looking at Treize, so he saw the flash of anger in the man's eyes before he looked away.

"Well... those useful chaps of the White Fang held onto him until he was fully healed," Polynices began.

"How long was that?" Quatre interrupted.

"Two years," Treize said flatly.

Polynices snarled. "Speak when you're spoken too," he snapped angrily. Treize's lips pressed more tightly together, but he didn't respond.

"As the boy said, it was two years," he repeated to Quatre. The blond wondered why Polynices kept referring to Treize that way ­ the man was over thirty, after all. Perhaps it was just another way of reminding Treize of his powerlessness and his inferior status.

"Then they began to try to figure out how to dispose of him," the leader of the Order continued. "They'd had their fun with him," he chucked obscenely, "but he was getting to be a bit of a danger to them. If anyone had caught them with him... " Polynices shrugged. He didn't elaborate, but he didn't need to. If the Preventers, led by Une, had captured the remains of White Fang and found that they had the supposedly-dead Treize Kushrenada imprisoned with them... No wonder they'd wanted to get rid of the man! "So they started putting out feelers of information, and some of my people caught on." His face glowed at the memory.

"But, wait," Quatre began, suddenly remembering something he'd almost forgotten in the enormity of the shock. "I thought you said... you were bringing out your... nephew? How... "

Polynices laughed, beaming with delight. Quatre had to fight down his revulsion. The man was insane. "I wondered when you'd catch on to that," he said, pleased. "For that, we need to go back... back to the early days of Polynices... and Etocles," he said, his voice suddenly hard.

Quatre's eyes narrowed a little, and he stared over at Treize, who, though he hadn't moved or reacted outwardly at all, was suddenly radiating tension and anger as he hadn't been an instant earlier.

"Do you want to hear this sad little story?" Polynices demanded, with pretended reluctance. "I understand if you don't want to hear the tale of this sordid little family feud... "

"Of course I want to know, my dear friend," Quatre assured him quickly. "I find it interesting that we seem to have a common enemy, considering all the other things we've found to have in common in the last few months... "

Polynices laughed again. "Exactly!" he proclaimed. "Exactly my point! Now," he continued briskly, "you do understand that what we share goes no further?" he demanded his voice hard.

"Really, Polynices!" Quatre cried, affronted. "I'm angry you would even say such a thing! I really am," he insisted. "Why would you imagine that... "

"Long habit, dear boy," Polynices interrupted, his tone conciliatory. "Surely a businessman such as yourself understands the need for caution. After all, things aren't always as they seem."

Quatre muttered a discontented assent, and Polynices resumed.

"I was born a Kushrenada. I was one of two children: me, and my twin brother." His voice hardened on the last word, and Quatre heard the bitterness.

"We weren't identical twins," he chuckled. "Dear me, no. There was some confusion as to which of us was the elder, though, which presented quite a problem, as our father was a duke. Only one of us could inherit, you see," he reminded Quatre.

"Etocles and Polynices," Quatre murmured, nodding.

"Exactly!" Polynices resumed, delighted. "My mother insisted that I was the elder. But our father remembered differently. He insisted that my brother, Andreas, had been born first. Since she'd admittedly been a bit distracted at the time, and since my father was the duke," he continued, his face twisting, "that's the way it went. Andreas was the heir, and I... I was nothing," he said bitterly. "The second son. The extra. Andreas always received the best of everything. I had only what was left."

Quatre nodded sympathetically, though he felt nothing but scorn. What was left. In the luxurious home of a wealthy, powerful nobleman. Poor Polynices.

"My entire life, I was expected to kowtow to my own brother," Polynices continued angrily. "I was to serve him, to help him. My education was geared toward helping to manage and support the estate that my brother would inherit. And it should have been mine!" he roared, startling Quatre with that sudden rage. "Mine, not his! I was the elder! My mother told me that all the time ­ told me how I was born first, and my father, my own father, preferred Andreas, and so robbed me, cheated me of what was mine! My own father!" he bellowed. He paused for a moment, trembling with the force of this remembered outrage. "I resembled my mother and her family, while Andreas took after him. So he disinherited me due to his own pride." Polynices' mouth grew tight. "My mother told me that, told me the truth where he told me lies, told me what had been done to me, how my father struck out against her and her family through me."

"My grandparents were not close," Treize inserted in a soft tone, his mouth twisting in a sardonic smile as Quatre's attention turned to him.

"Be silent!" Polynices roared, moving to push himself off the bed.

"But Polynices," Quatre interrupted, reaching out and grabbing the man's arm to forestall his move. "I don't understand. What happened?"

Polynices took a deep breath, reining in his temper. He settled back on the bed, though he continued to glare at the kneeling form of Treize, who had prudently lowered his head again.

"When Andreas and I were twenty, we were sent to a university in another country. My father believed that studying in other parts of the world would help us gain more understanding of how to solve the problems our people faced." He snorted. "Our people. They were my people, I was their ruler, but Andreas and my father had stolen them from me!" He took another deep breath. "But that decision proved to be my father's greatest error," he revealed, gloatingly. "He had sent us to a city where my mother's family was very powerful. He thought they would help to protect us." He laughed scornfully. "But mother had told them of what had been done to me, and we'd only been there a few weeks when they first approached me." His smile widened. "They ­ my true family, as I thought ­ were willing to help me regain what I had lost."

Quatre smiled with Polynices, although anticipation of what was ahead was already sickening him.

"We formed a plan. I, accompanied by them and some of their men, would accost Andreas when he was unprotected. It was easy enough to do," he said, he mouth twisting with scorn. "The fool was always visiting some woman or another, and walking home alone in the middle of the night. We shared a suite, so I knew when he was gone. They set up a woman, and we met him on the way home." He paused, a reminiscent smile on his face.

"You were physically a part of that?" Quatre demanded, surprised. He wouldn't have expected that.

"Yes," Polynices sighed. "My uncles argued against it. But I wanted to be the one to kill him, you see," he explained easily. "And I wanted them to be there. So that he would know who had destroyed him."

"Of course," Quatre murmured as though he agreed. Inwardly, he recoiled. How someone could plan so coldly to murder his own family, his own twin brother, for personal gain...

"It worked perfectly," Polynices gloated. "We met him in the street. He had just sated himself, he was careless... He never heard us coming. There was a brief fight, but there were ten of us to his one. I knocked him to the ground, and, while he lay there with my blade to his throat, I pulled off my mask and let him see me. I saw the look in his eyes," Polynices laughed, "and then I thrust my blade through his heart."

"So you became the heir," Quatre murmured.

"That was the plan," Polynices agreed, the light of that remembered pleasure fading. "But that bastard always had the devil's own luck. Everything worked his way!" he bellowed. He stopped, and Quatre could see him forcibly regaining control. "I thrust my blade through his heart, and we threw his body in the harbor," he went on. "We went our separate ways, and I went home to my bed, waiting for the morning, where I would be obliged to express my sorrow and despair on finding that my darling brother had been murdered in the night by thieves." He chuckled.

"What happened?" Quatre pressed, when he was silent for a moment.

Polynices' face tightened. "I was wakened in the morning by one of my servants, in a panic. She warned me I had to get out. My damned brother had been fished out of the harbor by some idiot policeman who had seen us! He hadn't been able to stop us in time, but he pulled Andreas out... and the bastard wasn't dead!" Polynices bellowed. "I'd missed his heart. Missed it!" he roared. "He was lying on the ground, not moving, and I missed!" He drew in a deep breath. "Let that be a lesson for you, my boy. Be sure your enemy is dead. Be sure of it," he repeated, his voice soft, but with a barely restrained intensity.

Quatre nodded a bit warily, but Polynices had regained his control again. "The policeman had recognized my uncles, and they'd implicated me. The police were at the door." He sighed, shaking his head. "I'll spare you the details of my escape and eventual capture. They were very exciting and all, but in the end, I was caught, tried and found guilty of attempted murder. My father made a lovely public denunciation of me ­ it was most dramatic," he assured Quatre facetiously. "So, I was thoroughly disgraced, disinherited, and sentenced to a life in prison. I'm sure father made provisions for that sentence ­ it would be too dangerous to have me loose, but no Kushrenada could be executed like some commoner." He chuckled unpleasantly, and there was no humor in the sound.

"So, I was sent to prison." He shook his head. "It was a rather more upscale prison than one could expect, but still... prison none the less. I determined not to stay there ­ I felt it just wasn't the place for me. I'm sure you can understand." He chuckled again, and Quatre joined in.

"I managed to escape after a year or so. It wasn't an entirely wasted time ­ that's where I met my good friend Adrastus, who found himself in a situation rather similar to mine. Again, I'll not bore you with the details of our escape. Once we were out, we split up for a little while ­ Adrastus had business to see to, and I had decided to pay a visit to my uncles ­ my mother's brothers ­ who had given me up so cheerfully to save their own skins. They'd managed to get off," he added darkly. "Much to father's dismay, I'm sure, but it was their city, after all, and when they'd turned all the blame onto me, they were released with little more than a scolding." He shook his head. "I went straight to them, and imagine my surprise upon entering their estate when I found them all dead!" He laughed uproariously, as Quatre stared at him in amazement.

"Yes, well, it's funny now," Polynices chuckled, excusing himself, as Quatre continued to stare perplexedly at him. "You see, the youngest of my uncles was a bit of a rake. He'd become enamored of a young lady, seduced her, impregnated her, abandoned her... that tired old story," he related, dismissing the story of the unknown woman's distress with the negligent wave of one white hand. "She had a rather jealous fiance, who was already on the run after killing another man he suspected ­ wrongfully, it turned out ­ of seducing her. Faced with an absent fiancé, an unwanted pregnancy, a fickle lover and a ruined reputation, she killed herself, after writing an ­ I'm sure ­ beautifully eloquent letter to the fiancé she'd been unfaithful to and was now abandoning." Polynices chuckled, shaking his head. "He took a bit of an exception to the whole thing, and decided to avenge his honor on my uncle. He got there and there was a fight, and he killed my older uncles, before moving on to the one he'd come for in the first place." Polynices sighed, and the sound was disappointed. "I arrived just after he finally died ­ the duped fiancé had dragged it out for hours, and I just missed it," he pouted. "I wish I could have seen a little of it. Anyway," he sighed, pushing aside that old disappointment, "there was a touchy moment or two when I arrived and it looked as though we may have to fight, but when I realized he'd killed my uncles and saved me the job, I thanked him and things immediately became more civilized. He told me his story, I told him mine, we commiserated, and he decided to join Adrastus and me on the business plan we'd developed in prison."

"Tydeus," Quatre said slowly, understanding the connection. "That was Tydeus... "

"Very good!" Polynices praised enthusiastically. "How we established all this... well, that's another story for another time," he said decisively. "Suffice it to say, that my attention was on business for many years... but I never forgot my dear brother," he drawled, his voice dripping with menace. "It angered me that he still had everything that was mine. I followed the reports of his life ­ his inheritance upon our father's death, his accomplishments, all the foolish speculation about when and whom he would wed. Eventually he wed the daughter of another duke, with a tremendous dowry. I was at their wedding," he said dreamily. "High on one of the balconies in the cathedral. I could have killed them both then... But it was too impersonal," he informed Quatre solemnly. "He would never know it was me. He would just die. And that death would be too easy. Besides," he added practically. "It would have been one hell of an escape. Too much risk. So, for years, I just watched. I followed all their lives ­ the honeymoon, their years together, finally, the birth of the long-awaited heir," he continued, gesturing ironically at the bound figure kneeling on the floor. "And I waited."

"And?" Quatre prompted, some sick part of him fascinated by the story. He was repulsed, horrified, by the idea of Polynices' so obsessively planning to destroy his own brother, but at the same time, the thought of that single-minded, infinitely patient persistence was... somehow compelling. Evil, but... but all evil contained within it something that was attractive. If it hadn't been so, there would be no temptation.

"Finally, I got my opportunity," Polynices gloated. "They'd gone riding, on the lands that should have been mine. The young hero son was away at the academy," he said, smiling unpleasantly at Treize. "I knew those lands as well as Andreas did ­ they were mine, after all! I hid in a stand of trees on my own horse, and waited. They neared me, and I ran out. My horse startled theirs, and they bucked. Andreas was thrown, but he yelled for his wife ­ what was her name again, boy?" he demanded suddenly, turning his head to look at Treize.

The former General was staring at the floor, his jaw tight as he listened to the story of the murder of his parents by the uncle he had never known. Quatre knew that it couldn't be the first time Treize had heard this story, but knew too that it wouldn't lose any of its power with repetition. His father had died violently too, after all, and the thought of his death hadn't become any easier for Quatre to bear.

"What was her name?" Polynices snapped.

Quatre looked at him. The older man remembered his sister-in-law's name perfectly well, Quatre knew. This was another torture.

"You will answer me," Polynices growled.

Treize tensed for a moment, his mouth set stubbornly, as though he wasn't going to reply to the man's taunting. He looked up briefly, and Quatre fidgeted uncomfortably as that sharp blue gaze rested on him again, probing, testing, searching for something... Treize looked away abruptly, and replied shortly, "Marianna."

"Marianna," Polynices repeated happily, stretching the word out caressingly. "Marianna. It had slipped my mind," he apologized, returning his attention to Quatre. "Marianna turned away and ran... but didn't get far. I brought her horse down in one shot, and she was thrown also. She was stunned and didn't get up, so I was free to turn my attention to Andreas." He smiled unpleasantly. "I had had eight bullets in the gun, so there were seven left. Five of them, then, I could play with. I made sure Andreas felt all the pain and suffering I had experienced in a lifetime in his shadow, made sure he suffered while I told him all the things I'd been saving up for so many years. Then I told him what was in store for the lovely Marianna... then I finished. I'd learned my lesson, though!" he reminded Quatre. "I had saved two bullets ­ one for the heart, and one for the head. Always make sure your enemy is dead."

Quatre nodded slowly, unable to speak. He didn't dare look at Treize ­ he would betray them both.

"The so-beautiful Marianna had recovered herself. She was rather less of a fool than I'd thought. I'd expected her to be hysterical, to weep and cry. Instead, she saw she couldn't save her husband, and she ran. I almost didn't catch her," he chuckled, inviting Quatre to join in his amusement. "Fortunately, however, I did, and was able to bring her back with me. The business had grown to its present size by then, and I was delighted to introduce my own sister-in-law to it. Make it a family affair, so to speak. Sadly, she didn't last long, but I quite enjoyed those two years we had. Taking something that was my brother's was quite the novel treat, and Andreas and Marianna's father Dermail had made quite a few enemies over the years who were quite pleased to find a small way to get back a little of what those two had taken."

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