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The Revival—The StoryA written prose version of the scene that takes place during "The Revival." Or, at least, my interpretation of what's happening.

fanfiction fanfic act v the revival song fic

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#1 FeatherWriter

FeatherWriter

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 02:29 AM

While Act V is still not quite out (so close!), I couldn't help but go ahead and start trying to figure out what was happening in the released songs. "The Revival" in particular quickly became... probably my favorite TDH song of all time, and I kept thinking about what might be happening while it was being sung.

The Priest and Pimp is one of my favorite characters (because who doesn't love a good villain?) and his dark, sleazy jazz sound for his songs is just so wonderful. The gloating victory of the lyrics, the despairing interlude in the bridge from the Boy, it was all too perfect not to take a crack at it.

So, she says she has a story: here it is.

There's a few different places you can find this: My tumblr or Archive Of Our Own.

There is also—because I drew very heavily on lyrics for inspiration, but kept myself from outright stealing any of them—an annotated version that highlights the lyrical references throughout the story, if anyone is interested in that. There's, obviously, a lot from "The Revival," but also quite a bit from the rest of the Acts too!

Or, if you don't want to read it off a different website, I'll post it below too!

———

The Dime is resplendent, and every ounce of its finery turns my stomach with a violent sense of nausea.

The halls are dazzling, polished to a shine, draped in silks, trimmed in silver, lit by chandeliers which drip with sparkling crystal. It is a monument to luxurious decadence and class. I do not need to wonder how much money splendor like this must have cost, for I know every cent which was drawn from my coffers to fund it.

He called my contributions a “generous donation.” It felt more like exsanguination.

I do not meet the eyes of anyone I pass in the halls of this stunning, terrible place. There is a bustle of preparation as the girls prepare for the important evening. The Dime’s renovations have taken some time—longer than expected—and the grand reopening is set to be a truly magnificent event. Important clients from across the city have been invited to enjoy wonders beyond imagining at a gala masquerade.

I think that perhaps nothing would bring me greater joy than to see this hard work smashed to the ground, shattered, torn apart brick by brick.

I remember days, not far in the past though they feel like a lifetime ago, when that idea, destroying the Dime, was the only goal in my life worth pursuing. All of the power and wealth I accumulated, all of the lines I crossed in order to do so, I did not for my own vanity, but rather in hopes that I might one day have the means of seeing the blight of the city’s most exclusive brothel ended once and for all.

Yet here I stand, the hateful halls more glorious than ever, dressed in this horribly fine suit as I steel myself to endure the shame of being a guest of honor.

Seeking a reprieve, I duck into one of the small, enclosed salons which are conveniently littered throughout the pleasure house. I try not to think of the intended purpose for such private spaces, though I welcome the protection from prying eyes nonetheless.

A bit of tension leaks from my shoulders as I escape the proximity of those setting up outside. The salon is lush—what in this hell isn’t, though now? A velvet lined alcove, with just enough room for two sitting close, is nestled into the wall across from a dark marble counter and wall mirror. As though in hopes one might mistake the room’s true purpose for a simple powder room.

I press my hands against the cool stone counter, trying to catch a breath I’ve been chasing for years. I cannot even despairingly ask myself how this could have happened, for I can recall every step in the path that has led me here with sobering clarity. A long, winding trail from blissful naivete, through beguiled ignorance and senseless brutality, to powerful influence.

And it has landed me here: trapped in a net of my own making, bound up in falsehoods I chose to tell, and every ill-begotten resource I’ve gained turned against me.

Blackmailed into the service of the man I swore to destroy.

Your secret’s safe, his voice whispers in the back of my mind, a constant, shameful reminder. As long as I'm protected. As long as you pay.

A stranger’s face glares back at me from the reflection in the mirror. The scars marring his skin—no, my skin—tell of the war that dragged its claws across my life years ago, a war that I know I never truly returned from. The Senator once said they gave me a distinguished, heroic air. They’re a rugged reminder of my service. Veterans get votes, of course.

I just wish I could still see even a sliver of myself behind the lies I’ve become.

Ashamed, I look down, clenching my eyes shut, as though I could block out my conscience so easily. It’s no use, of course. The guilt haunts me no matter where I go or what I do. There is no easy way out of what I’ve done. Of what I’m doing.

“There you are. Hiding away before our grand debut?”

Every muscle in my body goes taut at the sound of that voice. I didn’t even hear him enter. My eyes snap open, fully alert, but I do not turn to look. I don’t need to see the speaker to know who it is. I would recognize the voice which pervades my nightmares anywhere.

At my silence, that serpent continues, words dripping like honey, like tar. “Don’t tell me you’re nervous, dear boy. The luxury of your position is that you needn’t actually do anything. The girls will be the ones performing, not you. They’ll do all the work.”

“Yes, you’re quite practiced at that, aren’t you?” I bite out through gritted teeth. “Getting other people to do all the work for you.”

He chuckles, laying a hand on my shoulder. “You could always try to enjoy yourself, dear boy. This is a night to celebrate all we've accomplished together.”

“Excuse me if I skip the champagne. I'm not in a very festive mood.” I try to pull free of him, but his grip clamps down on my shoulder like a vice.

I turn, a lethal glare already fixed in my features, and catch sight of him for the first time tonight. The Dime's odious patriarch is not wearing the priest's frock this evening, but is instead clad in a suit as fine as my own. A mask reminiscent of a plague doctor's beak covers the top half of his face, and I wonder immediately if he scheduled the opening as a masquerade solely for the chance to wear it. A way of forcing everyone else to match him in hiding away their identities.

From the very start, I have never known him to reveal his true face within the Dime, though surely the role he plays here is far truer to his nature than the false piety with which he leads his congregation in the church. I've sat in those pews, listened to him spin captivating falsehoods from the pulpit as I wondered how his precious flock could be so blind to what he truly was. If those eager crowds only knew the kinds of sins their preacher committed outside the hallowed halls, behind smoke and masks, they'd turn on him like hounds on fresh meat.

When we first met here, years ago, he wore a mask like a pig. I found that fitting, in hindsight, yet now I wonder if this new beaked visage of pestilence and plague doesn't suit him more aptly.
He's a disease on the city, on everyone he comes in contact with.

Despite the obscuring accessory, the impious priest is perfectly recognizable tonight, at least to me. How could anyone mistake the cold superiority behind that false smile, cruel eyes glittering in a face that somehow seems gaunt for lack of empathy rather than lack of flesh?

Perhaps he thinks the same of me: unmistakable. He was the only person I know of who saw through my false identity when I returned from war.

The threat of revealing who I truly am to the rest of the world is only one sickening flower in the bouquet of blackmail he holds against me. The threat of my secrets being revealed to the world, of the public learning who I truly am, what I’ve truly done, has slipped me quite neatly under his thumb. What would they all say if they knew that I, a leader the people chose to guide them, am a fraud? Not truly the decorated war veteran, returning with honors, but the son of a whore, wearing the name of a dead brother, with the blood of his own father’s murder staining his conscience.

To say nothing of the numerous sins I committed to gain that power. Choices I made throughout the ever greater, ever more-glorious campaigns to prominence. Choices which drove away the woman I’d thought I would marry at the end of it all, as she could no longer stomach the man I had become. I cannot blame her. Looking back on it all, I think that no one could be more disgusted by what I have become than I am myself.

I told myself it was justified, the decisions I made, the underhanded deals and lies. If I could only accomplish something with it all. If I could only destroy him, end the curse upon this City that is the Dime.
And what have I to show for all of my efforts? The knife of my enemy at my throat, his leash cinched tight enough to choke with every breath.

He leans in closely, bony fingers still digging into my flesh to hold me in place. “This is a very important night for us. I wouldn’t want anything to jeopardize that. Just relax, enjoy the show, and try not to scowl too deeply. You’ll scare our patrons, and the mask can only do so much.”

With his free hand, he proffers a simple black mask, a small thing of satin and string, rather than the sinister contraption he currently ports. After a moment, I snatch it from his hands, moving to affix it. I cannot very well object to something that might lend me a shred of anonymity. The last thing I would want is to be recognized in a place like this.

He releases short huff of air that I think might be meant as a laugh. “So harsh, so antagonistic. Perhaps one of the girls could help relieve some of that tension before the doors open, hmm?”

“I don’t want any part of your twisted business,” I say, feeling the fuse on my temper quickly fray the longer I’m in his presence. “I’m not one of your clients.”

“Not anymore, at least.” He slings an arm around my shoulder, yanking me into an embrace. “Now, you’re a business partner. And we have accomplished such great things together.”

I squirm in his grasp, but he’s stronger than he looks. With an oil slick smile, he tows me out the door of the salon, back into the halls. A few of the Dime’s ladies are strategically scattered throughout the space, ready to welcome guests when the doors open. Most of the others have relocated backstage in the new grand hall, as the new and improved Dime couldn’t be properly reintroduced without the extravagance of a stage show.

My captor drags me through the carpeted hallways, smiling at each of the women we pass. I cannot bring myself meet their eyes. “You’re a public figure now, my boy. This sort of thing is expected of you. There’s no reason to be so hostile to the idea that you’re now a patron of the arts.”

For the most part, I’ve ceased my attempts to get away from him, resigned to endure whatever torment he has in mind before he’ll let me go. My lip curls at the comment, though. “Nothing that happens in this den is art.”

He grabs the arm of a girl as we pass, and though surprised, she recovers quickly, letting the change in momentum translate into an elegant twirl. Blue chiffon rustles as her skirts flare, and she dips into a slight curtsy, giving the two of us a very practiced smile.

He cups her chin, turning her head as though showing her off to me. “Are you so certain? Is she not a masterpiece?”

I force myself to look at her, if only in hopes of conveying some kind of apology from beneath my mask. She should be beautiful, clad in such a gorgeous dress, rouge and powders perfectly painted across her delicate features. But all I can see is another person trapped within his cruel net, a fellow captive, though one who has been forced into a different role.

As she catches sight of my pity, something darker flashes through her eyes, though her smile never slips. Judgement. Accusation. I know her meaning as though she had shouted it in my face. Another man coming to play where the rules can’t find him. Another possible ‘client’ who might like things ‘rough.’ Another night of horrors, forced through with a smile. You’re one of them. One of those. An enemy.
Just like him.

The urge to say something, to explain that I’m as unwilling a participant in this whole endeavor as she is, to deny any kinship between me and the man I currently stand beside, is nearly too much to bear. The moment passes, however, as he leads me away, leaving her behind.

Whatever defiance I had left withers, and I slump, feet dragging as I follow on his non-optional tour. It’s too late for me to do anything tonight anyway. The Dime is rebuilt, lines of guests wait outside in the cold, ready for the show. I can’t fix this, not tonight. Perhaps not ever, if he has his way.

Every escape route I’ve thought of, every loophole through which I’ve sought to wiggle free, he’s always been one step ahead of me. How long did he watch my false persona’s rise to fame, knowing who I really was all the while, ready to play that ace up his sleeve at the most devastating opportunity? Even years ago, before the war, before everything I’ve done since, when I was simply an idiot boy dazzled by the city lights, taken in by soft skin, a sunlit smile, and the smooth-talking snake standing behind her.

Time and again, I’m proven a fool for ever trying to get the upper hand on him. If events thus far are any indication, trying to resist or stop this would likely only make things worse.

He continues speaking as we walk, arm resting across my shoulders to keep me from wandering off, but I’ve long since stopped listening. He gloats behind his jocular tone, treating me like an old friend even as he rubs in his victory over me like salt in a wound. My own thoughts are sentence enough. I don’t need his help to hate what I’ve become.

It isn’t until I feel something drop upon my head that I snap out of my own thoughts. A top hat, the fabric stiff and light, has been placed upon me, and I blink free of my reverie in time to see him pulling a matching one off a rack.

As he settles the adornment upon his head above his unsettling mask, he gives me a once-over nod. “Look at that. See, there may be hope for you yet. If a backwards thug like you can clean up so well, surely anyone could do it.”

Having finally been released, I immediately step away, adjusting the hat as I put distance between us. “How long is my attendance tonight required to satisfy your ego?”

“I’ll let you know when you’re allowed to retire from the festivities. You’ll no doubt try to slip away unnoticed as soon as possible,” he says smoothly. “In the meantime, at least pretend you’re not the miserable, bitter man you actually are and act like you’re having fun. Everyone is here to enjoy themselves, yes? I trust you’re practiced enough in constant deception that this shouldn’t be a problem for you.”

I try not to react to the needling insults, opting instead to fling back one of my own in as flat a tone as I can muster. “A supposed ‘man of God’ encouraging someone to lie? How utterly surprised I am to hear such things from you.”

His sick smile is unwavering as he leans in close again, his stare boring into my own. “I have no need to lie tonight. I truly am enjoying myself. After all, no one would want to be misleading.”

No one would want to be Ms. Leading.

My hands tense at my side, fingers curling as I itch to grab him, to choke him until he’s as cold and dead as his soul. The rage burns red at the edges of my vision at hearing him speak her name—not really her name, but he knew what he was saying. A breath sucks through my clenched teeth as a hiss as I struggle between the side of me that doesn't want to let him see me rise to the taunt and the side that just wants him dead.

His satisfied smirk spreads like a rash and I feel both sides lose. He knows he has me right where he wants me and that I know it too.

The sight of him grinning, the sound of her name haunting, the smell of the Dime's polish and excess, they're too much. I lock myself into a forceful stride, pushing past him before his grasp can snare me again.

“I need some air.”

The words are an admission of defeat, and perhaps that is why he makes no move to stop my retreat. I don't see why he should count this a victory. It isn't as though I had a chance of coming out ahead in any of this, as though I had anything more for him to take from me.

“Hurry back, dear boy.” His pleasant tone hunts me as I flee, words choking worse than any mustard gas. “You’ll want to be here when the curtain rises.”

I barely hold myself back from running through the twisting corridors, palms slamming against the alley door before I burst out into the frigid dark. It isn't until I see the breaths puffing in the air before me face that I realize I'm panting, though surely not from exertion.

The dark evening street is a sharp contrast to the brightly lit chaos on the other side of the door. Lazy snowflakes drift through the air, melting as they hit my face or the cobblestones at my feet. The world glistens with precipitation, melting faster than it falls. The season is not yet turned enough from autumn to winter to allow the weather to gain a foothold on the ground.

I know I should brush the snow off my suit before it ruins the fabric, but I can’t bring myself to care enough. Strength fleeting, I crumple against the wall, as though the weight of my sins were made corporeal to bury me.

“I didn’t want this,” I whisper, though my voice grows louder as my thoughts spill forth. “I was trying to stop him. This was never supposed to happen!”

The wet bricks meet my words with indifference. I pound a fist against them, feeling the cold, rough texture bite against my skin.

“And here I am, at the end of this long, ruinous path. His collared co-conspirator.” A bitter laugh escapes me, a visible puff in the air. “Why even bother with his farce at the church, I wonder? This is his true house of worship. And I’ve helped him turn it into a shrine of twisted lust and vanity.”

I stand silent like that, head bowed as the sky slowly dusts me with frost. A time measured in beats of a withered heart, breaths in a stolen body. I cannot lift my eyes heavenward, for the thought of any presence watching me from the beyond is laced with terror at the things I have done. Thoughts of religion bring only reminders of where I am now, for the Church is inextricably tied in my mind with the Dime.

Despite the endless fathoms that lie between me and faith, I find a prayer on my lips in this dark, dismal alleyway.

“Please.” My voice cracks over the word as though it were the first to be spoken in days. “If there’s anything out there still listening, any power that cares, please. I can’t do this. I cannot endure this any longer.”

I’m surprised by how true those words actually are. After all the unspeakable horrors I faced in the war, it’s surprising to realize that serving him in this decadent luxury that would send me to a breaking point.

“There has to be something. Some way out, some escape that I’ve overlooked. I don’t care about the money or the power or the renown or any of it! I’d destroy it all if only to keep it from his hands. Please… anything.

No answer comes from on high, unsurprisingly. My posture sags, defeated as I think on how utterly powerless I am here. “They’ll kill me if he reveals the things I’ve done. If he even suspects I’ve taken action against him, he’ll send the hounds after my blood. If anything happens to him, he’ll have contingencies in place to ensure I pay for it. I can’t get around it. There’s nothing to be done. Nothing at all.”

For as long as I dare, I stay outside the light and the warmth and the luxury, savoring this dismal quasi-freedom. A prisoner given leave to walk the yard, if only for a few moments. But the doors will be opening, the evening’s entertainers taking places backstage.

The warden would be displeased with tardiness, and so, with teeth gritted and shoulders back, I straighten my suit and walk back into my sparkling, sybaritic cell.

#2 twotimesthedime

twotimesthedime

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 09:17 AM

This is very well-written, and you got the Pimp down to a T. That Ms. Leading/misleading part just about killed me. Awesome work!!

Edited by twotimesthedime, 08 September 2016 - 09:17 AM.

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