Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 23 (of 43)

XXIII

It was later, perhaps much later, perhaps only an hour later that Zedwig found himself retching amongst the shrubbery in the royal gardens. Perhaps they were not to be called the “royal gardens” anymore, but merely the “overlord gardens”. He had killed twenty-seven men he knew today, he had wielded dark, destructive magic, he had watched as the king and his sister were brutally murdered, and it made him feel as if he were coated with an oily filth which couldn’t be sloughed off no matter what he did.

Somehow, Fangline had gained complete control over him to where he couldn’t dictate his own actions were they not in line with Fangline’s wishes. Fangline was harder, cruel and unfeeling. He was a smooth stone before, but now he was a rock that had been broken to reveal sharp, cutting edges. Zedwig was entirely and completely in shock, and so was everyone else. In one day, everything was wholly different. No one was free anymore, and of all those who had lost freedom, Zedwig was paramount.

Fang, or so he had insisted he be called, had allowed Zedwig a brief solace alone in the gardens to allow his shock to wear off. He couldn’t leave the gardens, for Fang forbade it. Attempting to do anything against Fang’s command was impossible; Schloefflonia’s new overlord ruled his mind and he could not change it.

If Zedwig’s consciousness wasn’t plastered motionless with shock against the horrors of what he’d seen just an hour past, he might have rued what he had done for that brief time in years past with Fangline, for if he had never allowed the untoward study to take place back then, none of this would have happened now. Little did he know back then, as he had gloried in his own strength, that he was trifling with a sleeping dragon which would one day wake and bind him ruthlessly in the chains of a previously unimagined hell.

However, Zedwig would have months and even years to consider all of this in every way possible. He would indeed rue it, regret it, and suffer for it beyond what he believed he could endure, and then it would begin again. For now, though, his mind was almost blank with disbelief and he found himself weeping and noticing the beautiful way the small leaves grew along the length of an unassuming branch on the bush beside his head. He wept over the loss of those he was supposed to protect; he wept over the beauty of the world. It made no sense, but he was on his hands and knees and grateful he wasn’t heaving anymore.

From behind a hedge the gardener made a noise. Zedwig heard him, but couldn’t see him, so he, in his desperate and numb state, crawled to the edge and looked around it. Gaffer was sitting among a bunch of daffodils with his legs crossed, and was looking at the sky. His hat was balanced on his knee, and his face was full of sorrow. The gardener perceived the mage, and looked down at Zedwig, disheveled and on his knees beside the hedge.

“We’ve never seen anythin’ like this, have we Zedwig?”

“No,” replied Zedwig quietly and simply, but wondering on the gardener’s aspect, seeming somehow more comforting than that which he recalled, which was an unassuming old man with hedge clippers who wasn’t memorable for anything except always being there.

Gaffer seemed to be wondering on him, too, for he was regarding him very intently.

“It isn’t an easy thing that’s been done to yeh,” said Gaffer. “Nobody’s gonna blame yeh for it.”

At this, Zedwig fell to tears, for he blamed himself entirely. The wretchedness of his existence crashed against him, and the inexpressible beauty of the daffodils tore at him. He was torn, ripped asunder; the depths of darkness which he’d been plunged into over the past hours swung with all the weight of a tremendous, unstoppable pendulum and opened to his sight the intense brilliance and perfection of creation falling out of his reach. It was nearly more than any mortal could bear and his sanity began to slip away from him.

Gaffer sat patiently as Zedwig fought and failed to regain his composure.

“I’ll give yeh somethin’,” he said gently, at last.

When Zedwig looked up, Gaffer had moved and was standing above him, his hoary head framed by the blazing sky. He put his hand on the mage’s head and something happened within Zedwig. It was as if a draught of cool water seeped into his mind, forming a pool of relief and solace. Gaffer took his hand away.

“Now, yeh’ll always have somewhere t’go,” he said with a sort of smile that made Zedwig feel as if he hadn’t been forgotten. Then, putting his hat on, he went back and sat in the daffodils with finality.

Feeling a little disoriented, but with gratitude and relief, Zedwig withdrew from the garden, if only because it seemed his time had ended there and it was time for something else to begin. Fang was waiting, and since it was inevitable that Zedwig would have to comply with his wishes, it was with bravery that he gathered himself to meet with him again.

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