Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chapter 15 (of 43)

XV


Zedwig was fairly certain he was losing his mind, but only gradually. It reminded him of a drought, how it wouldn’t rain day after day yet the expectation would remain while the world suffered a slow, quiet death.


He had once had misgivings about Prince Fangline. It had been one of those feelings which aren’t easily defined but tend to warn, however it had grown, and by now he had begun to feel a genuine sense of insistent and present stress over the entire situation.


Regardless of his intuition, Zedwig found himself, again and again, wiling away spare hours in at least the discussion of magic with Fangline, which the prince only seemed to want to discover how to use in more destructive, more overpowering ways. It more than concerned the mage where the general focus of Fangline’s attention invariably lay; Prince Fangline appeared to love only one thing, and that was power.

He decided beyond all doubt that the intensity of Fangline’s interest in Zedwig was because the mage was capable of such wanton destruction.


This destruction did have an effect on him, though. Zedwig felt stretched, like leather pulled onto a drum. He knew enough now to know that he should never touch that sort of magic again, and to know why it was warned against in all the books he’d read. However, there was a problem with that.


It was Fangline. For one thing, Zedwig secretly enjoyed being virtually worshipped by he who would be the king and the most powerful man Schloeffelonia, and perhaps even the world. For, though Schloeffelonia had always been a strictly pacifist state, he knew of none with the wealth nor might to stand against it. The attention was pleasing for a wallflower, and had drawn him from his shell. Beyond that, he and Fangline shared their strange mental acuity, which was far too easy to grow accustomed to and to notice its lack when it was gone.


Zedwig thought he had never been powerful, nor that he had ever been noticeable, but on the contrary he was extraordinary and had risen to be Royal Chief Mage earlier than anyone ever had in all records. The distinction, however, that changed how Zedwig viewed himself was when he decided to use his free will in a way that gratified his vanity.


His pride grew, and he used it, grew it, and coaxed it until it lived and he truly believed he was as powerful as he was told. He grew drunk on the power he possessed; both the power over the destructive forces in the world and the power he held over the prince. Zedwig was a marvelous weapon, and hidden deep within his psyche he was also a talented manipulator. Fangline was helpless and transfixed before him, and more and more Zedwig relished his possession of the prince, but Fangline was never satisfied for long. Zedwig began to believe, and then to despair that Fangline would never stop wanting more from him, and soon he would be forced to cross lines he had sworn never to cross.


The despair cried from the part of himself Zedwig still possessed entirely.


It was nearly midsummer, and Zedwig was sitting near an open window. Schloeffelonia was rather alpine in nature, and summer was never overly hot. On this particular early afternoon, it was overcast and a breeze wafted in and out in lazy patterns through the window like a tide, making even the most unpleasant tasks seem better and life drift in the act of forgetting restless, long winter nights.


The long grass sighed outside as his pen scratched the papers upon a table.


A gust of wind nearly pulled his papers from beneath his right hand, and brought with it the strong scent of a rainstorm.
Against the wind, and against despair, Zedwig made a stand and continued, stubbornly, to write.


Your Highness,


I regret that I can no longer tutor you. You have learned all I have the ability to teach on the matter, and as Royal Chief Mage I do not find it advisable to continue the study of magic in this vein. I am absolutely certain you know why, as I have explained it to you on numerous occasions in laborious detail. How can I hold the position I do and dabble in what I should not?


The answer is simple; I cannot.


As it is, I have asked for a brief leave, which has been granted, and by the time you receive this letter I will be gone for a time.


Please accept my apologies.


Z


This was, somewhat unexpectedly, one of the hardest things that Zedwig had ever had to do. He had grown unusually attached to Fangline, but, while he was still in possession of his faculties, something in him sensed he had to escape while he still could.


His hand shook as he folded and sealed it; it made him breathless and nauseated at the same time. He left it there, and would inform Geeves of its existence once he was on his way to the mountains.


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