Gormenghast - Fanfiction - "Utter Hatred"

  • Aug. 20th, 2014 at 6:46 PM
Title: "Utter Hatred"
Fandom: Gormenghast
Rating: PG
Length: 918
Content notes: No warnings to speak of, aside from animosity between the two players. Possible Steerpike/Titus, if you tilt your head sideways, also a blending of the BBC miniseries and the books.
Author notes: I thought of these two immediately, when I first saw this prompt: it fits them a little too well, as there is utterly no love between them (and there are hints, both in Mervyn Peake's unused notes and in the mini-series, that they might be half-brothers who share the same father....)
Summary: Steerpike sets a trap of words for the young Earl...

"You've bucked your duty to the Stones and to the Ritual yet again," Steerpike said, unmoving behind the desk in his office, what had been Barquentine's tangled rats nest of books and papers, till his ambitious young successor had cleaned it up and introduced better lighting.

The young Earl sat before the desk, his back to the Secretary of the Ritual, which made it necessary for him to speak over his shoulder in order to reply, and when he did, he barely even tried to look at the man. "Why should this matter to you?" he retorted. Yet again, the castle guards had had to fetch him back from wandering the forest beyond the castle wall, and yet again they had hauled him into this office for a reprimand.

Anger and contempt, two cracks in Titus's armor. The seventy-seventh Earl in the line of Groan might prove the weak link yet, and Steerpike would not hesitate to make use of that weakness. "It matters because the Ritual is your life and that of the castle. It matters because we are both bound to it by duty: yours as the Earl of Gormenghast and I as your humble servant and guide--"

"What makes you humble?" Titus snapped, looking full on Steerpike, his violet eyes blazing. The youngster might not be as dull as he seemed, if he truly saw that in Steerpike. "You hold the Ritual over my head as if you were the master and I the servant, not the other way around."

Well. He had not expected that sudden inspired move on the board. Steerpike blinked, not even pretending to be taken aback. But he quickly considered a counter-move. "If I do, it is because you act more like the petulant child you were and not the ruler you are to become."

Titus sighed and wagged his head, tiredly, looking away again. "Do you think that I enjoy this feeling? Do you think I like to cry out as I do?"

Steerpike indulged himself a smirk. "You often do respond that way. But go on, if you wish to elaborate."

"Do you honestly think that I care to engage in these senseless actions day after day?" Titus replied. "Etching a line on the back of an enameled metal cabinet door with a specific blade on a specific day? Drawing patterns of a specific design on the tiles of a particular courtyard with a stick of a proscribed length and type of wood? And the ritual of the Bright Carvings: why are they kept in a far off hall where no one goes? Why are they not set out in a frequently used chamber in the castle where people might enjoy them?"

"We have had conversations like this: I have told you time and again that they are part and parcel of your duties as the heart and soul of the castle --" Steerpike begins patiently.

Titus throws up one hand, head bowed, obliging silence from Steerpike. "Yes. I know that all too well. What I have begged to know since the time I could reason is why I must do this? To what purpose? What are the meanings behind the Rituals? And do not say that it is because my forebears have done so for ages. What prompted them to perform these actions?"

"If we knew the meanings, I would tell you, but much of the history behind the Ritual was buried in the texts found only in the Library, and you know that burned when you were but a child," Steerpike replied.

"Then why do we not change the Ritual or eliminate some of it entirely?" Titus argued.

"Because it is how life goes on in Gormenghast: the servants serve you, the Carvers create their carvings, you as the Earl perform the Ritual," Steerpike replied, seeking to throw up a smokescreen that might irritate the Earl into doing something stupid.

"I hate it all," Titus snarled. "I hate the Ritual, I hate the Stones, I hate my crown as much as I hate you for holding them over me!"

"Now we come to the heart of the matter," Steerpike noted, sitting back in his chair. "What would you do to change things? What does that hatred inspire you to do to change things?"

"I would walk away from it. If I had it in my power, I would give the crown to Fuschia and go out into the world beyond the walls to see how others live," Titus said.

"You know that Fuschia cannot wear the crown, for she is not a male of the Blood," Steerpike said.

"Then let her marry and bear a son to wear it," Titus retorted.

There was that possibility, Steerpike thought. But his chance had passed when the fire that consumed Barquentine had disfigured him. "If she could find someone..." he noted, hiding his self-loathing.

"Then find her a man to marry and give her a son," Titus growled. "Perhaps that child will love the stones as I cannot."

"And you would burden your nephew yet to be born with a burden you can hardly bear?" Steerpike suggested, hiding the thoughts already pricking in his mind. If he could find a means to prove his parentage, in a way that the Countess would approve...

Titus sighed and let his head fall forward. "Must you set traps for my feet at every turn?"

"I suggested it only to show you another angle on your proposal," Steerpike said. Check and mate...

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