Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 28 (of 43)

XXVIII

That night, Zedwig sat at a small table within a well-appointed tent pitched for those of highest order within the empire. He was only minutely aware of several guards which attended, for guards didn’t matter to him; slightly more aware that there was food on the table, although of what kind he hadn’t bothered to discern; innately aware of Fang sitting with casual disposition across the table from him, as he was always innately aware of Fang’s presence; but very acutely aware of how he felt.

He was tired; it was a cutting fatigue beyond that which was natural, and again he felt stretched with restlessness; his skin rarely ceased to crawl. His body was rebelling against what was being done to it with a constant, low-spark discomfort he could not escape or relieve. He was wondering thickly if it would fade by morning when he noticed Fang was speaking to him.

He didn’t care.

Earlier, following the burning of Narman City, Zedwig had managed to eventually find himself alone within his own tent that had been given to him. It was there that he cried upon the floor for a time, ashamed of his destruction and even finding shame in his sobbing. He experienced a thorough sort of wretchedness, which tends to spread from the facet that created it to all aspects of one’s life like black ink spreads through water as the mood remains, but gives a buffer at last after all emotion is spent and allowed Zedwig a moment of soft numbness before they found him.

He was found, taken away, and washed as battle and fire had covered him, like most, in a fine layer of dust, which dust upon Zedwig was only allayed by the tears which had cleaned his face in a rough, imperfect manner. All concern was taken for the care of the mage and he scarcely noticed it, but Fang noticed everything.

Again Fang spoke to him and Zedwig deigned to listen.

“Zedwig,” he said, not really looking like an overlord of darkness, as his face showed a subtle measure of concern which would have been difficult to discern on his smooth fa├žade for anyone but Zedwig.

Zedwig replied by looking at him, but the act made him more tired.

“Would you eat?” Fang asked, indicating the food that the mage began to register between them and found it didn’t interest him in the slightest. “Please.”

Fang, however, did not insist, and Zedwig was marked by a very compassionate soul. It might be what a callous person would consider his greatest weakness for it was this deep inward compassion that brought him to willingly give in to Fang from time to time. It was perhaps knowing that Fang could command him to eat, but didn’t, or perhaps it moved him to see Fang relegating himself to his mercy in this one thing. Regardless, within him Zedwig held a deep love for the world, and Fang was part of it. Thus he ate, after a manner, although it was all ashes.

“How are you feeling?” asked Fang.

“I’m very tired,” he said in a disconnected way.

“You… look tired.”

Zedwig did not reply.

“I’ll insist we allow you rest for a few days before we move on,” said Fang decisively. He glanced at a guard, then back to Zedwig. “Surely that will bring you around.”

“Surely,” said Zedwig, sounding more morose than he had intended.

“Look at what you have done, Zedwig,” said Fang, who, with a short command to a guard nearby had the symbolic “key” to the city of Narmans brought out for the mage’s approval.

The pride and soul of Narman City was an intricately wrought compass that was laced with magic. They had in legend attributed their great seafaring power to this compass, which not only told direction, but predicted storms and inclement weather in great detail. Thus they always knew when to set sail and when to harbor. Fang now possessed it as a prize, and in his hands did very little for the dry earth he walked upon.

“In only an hour you have conquered an entire people,” Fang told him, setting the compass on the table between them. It was metallic in a gray-green way that was unlike any metal he’d ever seen before. A sphere upon it spun more and more restlessly as it neared him. He looked at Fang and noticed he seemed to grow alert and alive amidst violence and the talk of violence. “That has never been done before that anyone can remember. Do you realize what this means? You’ve made history. You will always be remembered for your great power.”


“It is you they must remember,” said Zedwig. “I wish to be forgotten.”

“What? Why?”

“Please allow me that, Fangline.”

Fang seemed perturbed. The sphere upon the compass spun rapidly, without relent. Zedwig didn’t like it there, upon the table, in the possession of Fang. It was like a fish left on dry land, struggling to make sense of dust.

“You should be thrilled with what potential I’ve shown you to possess,” said Fang, with a small amount of force behind his words. “Perhaps you don’t understand yet that we can rule the world; the entire world, Zedwig. It is ours for the taking.”

Zedwig opened his mouth to reply, but his hour of weeping from before betrayed him and his breath caught twice. He stood instead.

“I’m very tired,” he said, repeating himself.

“Of course,” Fang replied, and he appeared to suffer a moment of frustration.

Shortly, though, Fang signaled to a guard, who then guided Zedwig with indifferent blind obedience to his own place of rest.

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