Friday, September 5, 2008

Chapter 17 (of 43)

XVII


Fangline was mostly woebegone, regardless of Camilla’s affections. The midsummer night’s fire was only a brief bandage for the wound he felt.


For one thing, he had thought over the past months he’d become more important to Zedwig than he actually seemed to be after all. No one could simply leave like that if that wasn’t the case. It was not only a blow to his ego; it simply hurt. Fangline had rarely in his entire life put himself, vulnerable, in the hands of another. He was a closed book to nearly everyone. It had begun with the death of his mother, and he’d only become more calloused since. Al’bert was perhaps the closest he’d come to trusting anyone, until Zedwig. The communication between them was always so direct and open; they could, in a sense, read each other’s thoughts when tuned finely enough. He’d gotten accustomed to it. He didn’t want to live without it.


He didn’t know that he hung precariously on verge of something so rare in their society it was largely undefined and unnamed. His attachment to Zedwig was one of oblivious innocence, but it had grown very strong, and the abrupt severance of it left a gaping wound he could barely stand.


He could hardly eat or sleep. He grew irritable and listless, even more than those around him were accustomed to expect from the oldest prince. He spent his days in brooding thought and his nights elsewhere than the palace, forgetting… not quite, but displacing.


Still, he was expected to be about his princely duties, and Fangline resented them more than ever. He’d been briefly shown something else, something new and thrilling, and to go back to what he’d been forced to live with before was like putting a freed man back into prison or like seeing the world only for an hour in brilliant color and then having it taken away forever. It was misery. He hated it, resented it, and wanted to escape and be left alone.


He hated the way the country was run, so steeped in tradition that no one even questioned what was right anymore. They simply did what was done before, and lived in blithe ignorance. The world was out there, somewhere, and Fangline knew from his studies that it was quite different from Schloeffelonia. The rest of the world was weak, poor, and disorganized, and his father only spent his time making sure whatever treaty Schloeffelonia had with whatever state was renewed satisfactorily for another hundred years. The elves kept to themselves, and everyone left them alone.


At the very least, the elves still learned to defend themselves, should it be necessary. It hadn’t been necessary for thousands of years, but they still practiced swordplay and magical defense. With such long lives an elf could learn to be at least ten times better than a human with a sword. The humans stayed away, except to trade. Trade was extremely important, for it was the cornerstone of Schloeffelonia’s wealth.


Fangline found himself wondering why Schloeffelonia penned itself into such a small space when they could easily expand their borders if they should wish it? Wouldn’t more of their country be a good thing, and in fact a boon to whomever was fortunate enough to lie in its path? But no, anytime he had ever brought up any sort of question like this it was only dismissed forthwith and never discussed with anything less than blatant dogmatisms. He’d learned long ago that his ideas were not welcome here. To discuss with an open mind was beyond his aunt, father, and brother.


They all had an intense sense of what they believed to be right, and it seemed Sangwine did from birth. He never wanted to do anything except exactly what his father told him to, and it pleased his father to no end. Meanwhile, Fangline fell swiftly out of favor. His life was awash with intense loneliness, and it seemed like since his mother died that was all he’d ever known.


Fangline never realized his loneliness was self-inflicted, and gradually he was hardened by it, having grown accustomed to it, and eventually preferring it. He held Camilla at arm’s length due to it, leaving her drawn to him even more as a result. It made him push away even further, until he found her tiresome and only good for the occasional comfort. She was predictable and dull. She was lovely. The idea of marrying her bored him to tears. The idea of marrying anyone bored him to tears. It seemed to him like it would only be extra baggage he couldn’t bring himself to desire at this point in his life. His life was complicated enough without an enigmatic woman to bother with.


The ragged, bleeding edge that Zedwig left in Fangline’s life was quickly replaced with the bitterness he held towards everything else he knew. Then again, it wasn’t entirely replaced, but mostly just buried. Somewhere inside of Fangline, there was a faint flame of hope that someday he might be understood and accepted by someone. Only once that was extinguished could complete destruction come.


On this night Fangline had gone out without a word. That made it one of the better nights, as when his aunt protested it became violence with words and even though he despised his aunt, it always put a dark cast on everything he did afterwards. He’d passed Sangwine, pretending he didn’t see him, and his brother was sitting in the dusk with Hope on a long swing talking animatedly about something Fangline was certain he’d see as mind-numbingly boring. He did find himself wondering how one becomes the best friend of a fairy, and what that would be like. He couldn’t imagine it, for fairies were such banal creatures, and Hope was no exception with her incessantly sunny disposition. His brother did seem content, except Sangwine seemed to have always felt a certain obligation to pull Fangline into line if he could, and Fangline found it amusing. Sangwine generally didn’t press him, because due to respect or fear he never became a nuisance in his insistence, but even though his brother continually insisted he didn’t want to be the king, his actions spoke very differently. If Fangline was envious that the king loved Sangwine best, so be it. Perhaps someday Sangwine would have the kingdom, then it will never have mattered at all.


After a moment’s hesitation by the road, Prince Fangline decided to spend some time at dice at the Rusty Barrel.[1]



[1] Refer to comic page #288 for what happens between this chapter and the next.

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