Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chapter 5

V

Zedwig wasn’t the sort who actually enjoyed social engagements, in fact he was extraordinarily shy. Generally, when he came to things like this out of a sense of responsibility and as a courtesy to the king, he felt oddly lump-like, as if he were taking up the space someone with better conversational skills than his should occupy. It was always vaguely embarrassing in no way he could really define, and he most assuredly did not enjoy himself.

However, he was convinced by the happy revelers he observed around him that there was something of worth to be had from a fete such as this, and so he continued to try, as well as fulfill his duty, with the cautious hope that someday he might be as svelte with words as those he politely watched.

Zedwig was a prodigy; his skill with magic was an anomaly in the world, and it was not long after he’d begun his studies that he’d vaulted to the position he was at now. He was extremely young for a Royal Chief Mage, being hardly older than the princes of the kingdom, but contrary to what his position might seem to indicate, Zedwig was not ambitious. His lofty station only came to him naturally as a result of his talent coupled with his nearly obsessive compulsion towards learning and mastery.

If Zedwig had been a social man he probably would have been very ambitious and likely unstoppable, but instead he would much rather be either working, researching, or discussing magic in quiet conversation. The ball around him seemed pointless, but like an equation he might pour over in the night, he continued to search for the worth in it.

However, by this time he had nearly reached the point where he would decide he’d made and adequate and perfunctory appearance and was free to melt away to his library.

“Mage Zedwig,” greeted Master Kelneth, the best sword-master in Schloeffelonia. He smiled as he approached, his wife on his arm. She was a foot shorter than Kelneth, and a very pleasant woman who was always generous about Zedwig’s social awkwardness.

“How are the mages these days?” she asked him.

“Ah, good,” replied Zedwig. “Quite good.” He briefly considered going into the theory they’d been working on, but was fairly certain it would make her eyes begin to glaze, so instead he hovered on the edge of saying something and not.

“Captain Brenge!” called Kelneth, drawing his wife away. She smiled and waved as they drifted after the Captain, disappearing into the tapestry of the crowd. Zedwig decided it was definitely time to go.

As he turned, he nearly ran into Fangline.

“Prince Fangline,” he said, blushing. “My apologies.”

“Mage Zedwig, enjoying yourself?” he asked Zedwig. Fangline always had a very direct way of addressing people, and Zedwig liked it. He was never about small talk, and Zedwig supposed it bored him, or perhaps he found it trite. Regardless, it made Zedwig feel a measure of the genuine when he spoke to Fangline, even when he was lying. If he lied, at least the things he said had a purpose.

“Not really,” he replied truthfully.

At this, Fangline smiled wryly, and then looked around.

“Boring, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t call it altogether boring,” said Zedwig carefully. “I’m sure for many people it’s quite exciting. It’s just to me it seems… pointless.”

Fangline raised an eyebrow as he considered what Zedwig had said.

“I think you might be onto something,” he replied, studying the passing guests. “But,” he sighed. “it is tradition.”

Fangline seemed to slip into deep, intense thought, which he did often. Zedwig found himself curious to discover the details of his thought, and what would create such a look of intensity on Fangline’s brow. Additionally, this was probably the most interesting thing that had happened to Zedwig all night. Being a deep thinker himself, he was drawn to the same, and not surface chatter.

“What is it?” Zedwig asked the prince after a long moment.

Fangline broke from his reverie to glance guardedly at Zedwig, who noticed an invisible wall seemed to rise around the prince, cutting him off from the rest of the world, including himself. Zedwig felt a moment of discomfort, as if he’d overstepped his bounds without really realizing he’d done so, and began to think for ways to politely excuse himself. Fang, in an unusually intuitive move, sensed this and dropped his defenses immediately in response, to which the mage relaxed, but all of this was done with very subtle and sparse outward communication, and took place nearly entirely beneath the physical shield of their respective facades. This brought Zedwig to wondering.

Fangline turned fully to speak to him as Al’bert intervened, seemingly from nowhere.

“Fangline, Camilla is going to have you hanged if you don’t dance with her again,” he said to Fangline with a grin. Al’bert was best described as being everything Zedwig wasn’t. He was well liked, gregarious, quick with wit, and rarely seen without at least one woman beside him. Tonight it was a lovely young girl with a fresh face, who appeared to be having a marvelous time merely hanging onto the arm of le Comte du Fromage. It seemed to Zedwig as if no life could be more perfect than that of Al’bert’s, and he envied him for that.

“I thought I was the one who could have people hanged,” replied Fangline with dry humor, who was capable of switching the depth of his thoughts with lightning speed.

“Come now, you don’t want to go scaring the populace before your reign even begins, do you?”

“Of course I do,” said Fangline, glancing at Zedwig, who didn’t really find the jest funny in the slightest, and not being the henchman sort, only gave Fangline a vaguely disengaged look. The prince paused at it.

Fangline turned to Al’bert.

“Where is she?” he asked.

Al’bert pointed out Camilla. She was leaning against a marble pillar, and was surrounded by several young men who were very interested in whatever it was she was saying. Noticing Al’bert and Fangline’s attention, however, she gave Fangline a little wave and winked playfully before continuing her conversation.

Fangline chuckled, then made a movement that suggested a proverbial rolling up of his sleeves.

“I suppose I’d better go give them all the what-for,” he said, which made Al’bert laugh, and Fangline strode off to claim Camilla as his own, if only because she was in high demand at the moment.

This left Al’bert and the nameless girl on his arm alone with Zedwig, who was already feeling the horrible pinch of not having anything to say.

“Having a nice time, Mage Zedwig?” asked Al’bert pleasantly.

“Smashing, thank you,” he replied and then said: “If you’ll pardon me, I think I left a spell running in the laboratory.”

The girl smiled at him and Al’bert gave him a respectful nod as Zedwig left the ball hastily and with relief.

5 comments:

spasticfreakshow said...

just now i realize that when zedwig's name came up my mind heard 'hedwig' or whatever it is that harry potter's owl is called. thus i felt certain i knew who this 'zedwig' was but just couldn't remember. only now do i realize i had no idea. you're fairly brilliant with naming your characters.

also, i love this interlude with fangline, where we get to see admirable dimensions of his character, such as that of a preference for utter sincerity. indeed, though i was born and grew up there, the prevalence of artifice in the u.s. always made me feel uncomfortable and alienated. when i arrived in israel and people asked such straight-up questions as my salary, instead of pretending to care 'how are you?' i felt instantly at home. zedwig would feel the same, i'm sure. if only fang hadn't killed his own parents...it almost doesn't seem in keeping with his redeeming qualities and his loyal friends...AND his friends are so likable! well, anyway, thanks so much for the chapter, colby!

Colby said...

Fangline was actually an extraordinarily talented individual... he just had some character flaws that ruined everything, one being a general self-centeredness. It's been fun to explore the bad AND the good in each character, and I've focused so much on Fang's development the book should really be called Fang, Fang, and More Fang. Al'bert is sort of an incidental player who is always there, and most of his development occurs in Bactine Gallagher and in the comic proper. In this book he's mostly notable for going along just for the sake of not rocking the boat, although there is quite a lot of getting to know Al'bert better, so maybe it works out alright.

LadyDrow said...

Is the book going to be published? I want to buy it.

Colby said...

It is going to be published!

Once it's finished, that is. Right now I'm about 2/3 of the way through writing it, after which it needs to be edited and so on. I would like to get it available sometime this summer, but much of that depends on writer's block and the unexpecteds that occur.

LadyDrow said...

Yay! I bet it sells like crazy. ;)