Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 29

“I haven’t been sleeping as well as I am used to,” said Amfortas, his usual bland smile now replaced by a slightly confused frown.

Doctor Aemilius Praetorius regarded the Prince-Regent inquisitively. He’d wondered why he’d been moved from what amounted to a comfortable imprisonment to waiting on Amfortas so soon after the Prince’s return from Tintagel, and now he knew. Of course, knowing the reason he was in this carriage with a man whose presence he found disquieting at the best of times didn’t change the ultimate unpleasantness of the situation. In many ways, it made it worse. “Insomnia has many roots, Your Highness. Stress… you are a man in a difficult position…”

“I am a man serving the Seven in the manner he was destined to do,” said Amfortas, his voice flat. “My position isn’t difficult at all. It is envious.”

“Of course, of course,” said Praetorius. “I misspoke. You… you are a difficult man to understand, my Prince.” He gave a nervous cough. “Perhaps… perhaps it is diet. Rich foods can upset the stomach, making sleep difficult.”

Amfortas rubbed his eyes. “No. No. That is not it either.” The slight frown deepened. “It is the noises, Doctor Praetorius. The noises keep me up at night.”

“The… noises, sire…?” asked the doctor quietly.

“Yes, the noises!” said Amfortas with surprising energy. “Night after night, I hear them. Little annoying noises. Mice squeaking. Flies buzzing. People breathing.” He shook his head. “That one is the worst. They keep breathing, Praetorious. In and out, in and out. Breathing. And I hear it. I hear it throughout the night. It’s… rather off-putting, I find.”

The doctor was suddenly quite aware of his own breathing at this moment, and did his best to… well, not stop it, but make it as quiet as possible. “There are… there are drugs, sir, which could be used to make your rest heavy enough that you would hear noth…” Amfortas’ eyes narrowed on Praetorius. The doctor decided that line of discussion was… unwise. “Perhaps--cotton in your ears,” he at last suggested.

Amfortas’ eyes remained narrow. “Why must I change, Doctor? What I want is something to make people… breath less.” He gave an idle yawn. “You could mix it in their food, I suppose. Or something similar.”

Doctor Praetorius nodded absently. There was an uncomfortable silence in the carriage for awhile. “It’s a pity we couldn’t stay at Scolpire…”

“It was drafty,” declared the Prince suddenly. “The air kept moving around me. All the time. It was drafty. Very drafty.” He smiled at Praetorius. “The Chateau de Nestor will be preferable. I always enjoyed it there. My grandmother was a Nestor, you know.”

“Really?” said the doctor, aware of a vague sense that something needed to be said.

“Oh, yes,” said Amfortas. “I never knew her. She died before I was born. But she was a Nestor. That means the Chateau is partially mine, in a way.” He nodded quietly. “I do hope the Duke and his family have treating my things well.”

Doctor Praetorious nodded again. Coming up with appropriate responses to the Prince was becoming… difficult.

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