Tuesday, June 2, 2015

And the River, It Goes On--Part 1

"It is awfully damp today," murmured Prince Amfortas.

Doctor Aemilius Praetorius gave a dull nod.

"Of course, it was worse, yesterday," noted the Prince.  He leaned back and gave a soft sigh.  "It's been a miserable month, really."  He glanced out the window.  "All snow, and rain, and damp."  He clicked his tongue.  "Such damp."  He turned to glance at the doctor.  "Wouldn't you agree?"

"I... of course, sir," muttered Praetorius.

The Prince stared at him for a moment, and then laughed.  "Yes, yes, of course you would.  You're a man of good sense, doctor.  A man whose opinion can be relied upon."

"Ahhh, thank you, sire," declared Praetorius, with a gulp.  He was wondering what the Prince was up to.  This had been his life for the last month--listening to whatever inane ramblings the Prince began and wondering if the axe would fall.  And it did, on occasion, but not on him, thank goodness.  But keeping that from happening... it took skill. Especially these days.

Oh, the Prince had always been cruel, but he'd rarely been so... unpredictable.  He would become preoccupied by strange things, stay awake for entire nights, and order executions and beatings for minor faults, or even at random.  And there was no rhyme or reason to it anymore--it would simply happen.  His conversation was the same way now--the old long silences, where he seemed to be this inert, unthinking thing and then... then the talk would begin.  Only it was babble--inane at best, nonsensical at worst.  The worst part was it was almost all in the same pleasant tone that he'd used before.

"Perhaps I should kill someone," announced the Prince, cheerily.

Praetorious blinked.  "Why... would you do that?"

"To take care of the rain," said the Prince.  "This is a sign, Doctor.  And signs mean something.  Otherwise, they wouldn't be signs at all.  They would just be things happening."  He shut his eyes and gave a nod. "Perhaps if I kill someone the rain will stop."

"You killed a man yesterday," pointed out Dr. Praetorius.  "And two men the day before that."

"Yes," said Amfortus.  "But I didn't kill them to make the rain stop.  That would be the difference."

Doctor Praetorius gave another dull nod, and hoped that Amfortas would not try out his theory right now.  There was something terrible about it all, really.  Something small in the Prince had broken, and because so much about him was broken already, it was destroying him.

A servant entered the chamber, doing his best to keep his eyes averted--Amfortas had killed a man the other day for looking at him too intently--and gave a polite cough.  The Prince turned to regard him. "Your Highness," said the man. "Two Stylites have arrived."

"Excellent," said the Prince with a nod.  He clapped his hands together, and gestured for Praetorious to follow him as he went for the door.  "It is about time they got here."

Praetorious followed him out, and hoped that this would calm the Prince down.

Something had to, after all.

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