Friday, September 19, 2008

Chapter 20 (of 43)

XX

Rascaline was a country of humans, pure humans, closest to Schloeffelonia. They were a people of very little discipline and a lot of idleness, which resulted in a country that never truly prospered. Nonetheless, they resented Schloeffelonia with jealous eyes for its wealth and beauty, and many of them strictly hated the elves. They wanted for their own that which they could have had freely, but, not knowing or perhaps not being willing to admit they had the industry buried deep within them to obtain it, what they chose to see in the elves was piety and self-righteousness.

What the elves possessed had taken monumental effort by their forebears, who slowly created a wealthy pacifist state out of nothing. These days the elves lived hardly cognizant of that fact except in passing, not understanding due to lack of worldly experience what tremendous gifts they had been given.

The Rascaline had long moldered in only adequate wealth in better times, poverty in the worst times. They lacked character in general due to the failure of an ancestor, which carried through the generations, and what they wanted as a whole was a reversal of situation for them and the elves. They wanted the wealth for themselves and to see the elves suffer. Unfortunately, they continued for ages to fail to understand that it was not with conquest, but only through themselves, that they could know the prosperity the elves enjoyed, and it was only the elves themselves who would create the fissure that could crack the solidity of Schloeffelonia.

In this miasma, Fangline was well received. He initially was content to tarry with the Rascaline for a time, but as time passed his thoughts began to change. His bitterness grew towards his homeland, and most especially towards his family. He resented his country not only for its oblivious prosperity but also for its potential, for Fangline was a man who loved a good weapon and Schloeffelonia in his eyes was a blade with no equal forced to lie unwielded.

His thoughts turned to how he would use the wealth and power of Schloeffelonia, should he rule it. He wondered on reclaiming the throne, knowing it would be his if he humbly returned and asked for it. He knew, though, should he reclaim his birthright in this way that it would be on someone else’s terms but his own, and that is the last thing Fangline wanted. He would then be forced to hold the unmatched blade and keep it sheathed for all of his life.

He wondered on Zedwig, and knew he had returned to his position after the prince had gone. Feeling a certain indescribable betrayal, he wondered with a smoldering anger if Zedwig was happy, now. With loss he considered what he could do, if only the chief mage were more pliable to him.

It was after a time of some few years that Fangline was given the artifact that would change the course of many thousands of lives.

There was a traveling magician who dealt in small things. Fangline was always attracted to small machines, mostly of the aggressive type, and the magician had a certain earring, which was rarely useful, as it required a magnifier to wield it properly.

The thing was very small, tear shaped, and opalescent. The workmanship was unusually fine, and the magician said he was fairly certain it was more or less ancient. He held it up, and then dropped it lightly it into Fangline’s open palm.

It was right at this moment of Fangline’s possession of the artifact that the magician knew, of a surety, what Fangline was. He told him to keep it without any charge at all, and left hurriedly, in what might have been interpreted as a panic.

Shortly afterwards, and after some extensive, aggressive testing on various unfortunate magic wielders, Fangline wrote Al’bert a letter.

Al’bert,

What would you say to me if I said I had in my possession the ability to overthrow all of Schloeffelonia and take it for my own?

Fangline

To which the reply came:

Fangline,

I would say you’ve gone and caught mad Rascaline disease?

Al’bert

And then again:

Al’bert,

I do. I have the means to control Zedwig entirely.

F

Al’bert replied again with fluster:

Fangline,

You can’t be serious. You can’t be serious!

You can’t be thinking of actually doing it. What game are you getting at? And while I’m on the subject, when are you coming home? It’s getting remarkably boring here with out you, and Camilla still pines.

Al’bert

Fangline continued to be direct:

Al’bert,

I will not write any more, but meet me on my side of Pixie Pass tomorrow night at moonrise.

Fang

Al’bert had no choice but to comply, for Fangline’s rhetoric brought out the most unbearable sort of curiosity in the comte.

The night was awash with starlight, which slashed diagonally across the sky in a milky haze along the skyline visible while in the pass. Al’bert rode his favorite horse, which was a black one and rather tall. He couldn’t help but feel some measure of excitement at the prospect of seeing Fangline again, and he wondered if his hair had grown long yet.

He didn’t have long to wonder, for Fangline was waiting for him on the other side of the pass. The moon hadn’t deigned to rise yet, but there he was, astride a dappled gray horse and looking foreign, yet familiar.

He was still wildly fashionable, and his time in the world had brought a certain exotic air about his dress and manner. His hair was still short, but Napoleonic in style, and his coat was cut like a spin on the traditional elven coat no one had ever thought of yet; open at the neck, bearing folds that turned flatteringly across his torso, and clasped with an emerald. He still looked like he didn’t care in the slightest what he wore and it all happened by accident. It was sensational, actually, and Al’bert was delighted by it.

Most of all, however, he was delighted at the sight of Fangline. He wanted to light from his horse and embrace him soundly with a kiss on either cheek, but something in the way Fangline moved restrained him. He had gained an inapproachability that never existed before.

“Al’bert, it is good to see you,” he said.

“Fangline,” began Al’bert, until Fangline cut him short.

“It’s only ‘Fang’, now, if you don’t mind,” he said.

Al’bert grinned, although it wasn’t returned and so quickly faded. It confused him to find Fangline so reserved and detached, and even injured him a little bit.

“So… Fang,” he said with emphasis. “You look well.”

It took him a moment to decide what it was he would say to greet him. Although Fangline did look smashing, he was entirely disconcerted by his manner. It was strangely menacing.

“Thank you…” Fang said. He shifted on his horse then dismounted. Al’bert took that as a signal to do the same, and then Fang crossed the space between them and took his hand. He smelled faintly of wood smoke and exotic spices.

Fixing Al’bert with an intent, green gaze he asked, “How loyal are you to me, Al’bert?”

Al’bert had to fight down the compulsion to make a joke out of such a serious question.

“You know I am your best friend,” he said to Fang.

Fang drew a breath and looked down at Al’bert’s hand, which he kept in possession of both of his. After a moment, where he seemed to choose his words, he looked back to Al’bert.

“I am going to overthrow Schloeffelonia and take it for my own.”

Al’bert automatically thrilled with the idea of such a thing, for it was sensational and epic, filled with rareness, change, and the wind that alters the seasons in a day. It put in him a giddiness, which, in Al’bert, would generate a nervous sort of laughter unchecked, but he fought it under control and laughed no more than a small turn in the corner of his mouth. It frightened him, excited him, and captured his imagination. He drew a ragged breath.

“How?” he managed to breathe.

“An artifact,” began Fang, who was not the type to become lightheaded in the face of such an idea like Al’bert, but became sharply focused, like light through a magnifying glass. “I found it on a traveling magician, who was kind enough to give it to me. Fortunately, in my time with the Chief Mage, I discovered I have a rare ability. Given this, however,” and he indicated a small teardrop shaped earring he wore in his left ear, “the magnifier becomes magnified.”

Al’bert didn’t quite understand what he was saying, but nodded regardless, as everything was still slowly sinking in. Fang took his arms brusquely and looked into his eyes with intensity, as if to force some of his focus onto his friend, whose coherence was flagging under the news.

“As I will fully control Zedwig, and the rest of the mages, no one will be able to stand against me,” he said. “I have an army here of humans, and although they are not as advanced with swords as the elves, they are more in number and possess more strength. Beyond that still, they possess an undying hatred of the elves and wish for nothing more but to debase them.”

“Odd how they love you,” said Al’bert.

“Of course they do,” said Fang. “I’m giving them exactly what they want.”

“And your family?” asked Al’bert.

Fang looked away. The moon was rising on the horizon over the mountains. It was a thin, pearlescent line stark and white against the black mountainside. Some moments passed before Fang spoke again.

“They’ll have to die,” he said.

Al’bert drew back, away from Fang and out of his hands. It wasn’t really a conscious movement, but one of instinct. He couldn’t imagine anything that would ever bring him to kill his own family, and although it would bode well for the Fromage’s standing to have the Schloeffels entirely removed, he did have a heart and knew the Schloeffels didn’t deserve to die, regardless of politics.

“Why?” asked Al’bert, his voice weak with disbelief.

“I can not conquer Schloeffelonia and leave members of the royal family alive. My complete rule will always be contested, and-,”

“And you could just be king if you went and asked for it,” said Al’bert. “Why do you have to do it this way?”

“Because-,”

“Fangline,” Al’bert interrupted again, a pleading tone in his voice. Fang’s eyes flashed at him and he moved, seeming to grow taller and more menacing, and Al’bert stopped.

“Al’bert,” he said darkly. “Go home and talk with your father. Find out on which side he wants the Fromages to lay in the aftermath. It is loyalty I require, now, Al’bert, not questioning.”

Al’bert paused, frozen in wondering where his friend had gone. He watched Fang mount his horse and the dark velvet swaths of his cloak curve against the young moonlight.

“Will you write to me?” Fang asked from the darkness in a voice, which reminded him more of Fangline than anything he’d done all night.

“I will write to you,” replied Al’bert, resigned and with hues of faint melancholy.

1 comment:

Zypher said...

Sooo, it WAS the earring... I wish I could remember who had said that first so I could congratulate them on being right...