Monday, July 22, 2013

Day Five Hundred: In Foramine Mundi, Part Seven

A king bereft of crown slumps against a slick rampart.

He shivers. He is cold, but that's not why he shakes. He has stared an old evil in the eye, one he'd hoped he'd never see again, and he still lives. A promise hangs over his head, one of terror… but for now… he lives.

The penguin, he thinks, recalling the sudden, grotesque twist of features before the puff of departing green. The penguin. How can something so stupid chill me so much?

Peering through the rampart, the king watches. The dark ones flee the field, leaping over the walls of the town in droves. A ball of light tags their every jump. Soon, it, too, fades from view.

The king staggers to the edge of the wall. He is tired. So tired. He needs a bed. The comfort of a good woman, of his woman. She is somewhere nearby. Perhaps, if they permit him, he will go to her. To her, and to his daughter, and to…

But no. The last one isn't here. He's elsewhere. The thought saddens the king. For what, after all, is a father without his son?

The king stumbles away from his still-smoking cannon. Neglectful and clumsy, he trips over a hunk of rock. He tumbles. He falls. He lands, comically and conveniently, in a bale of hay stacked at the base of the wall.

Humiliation. Degradation. He's used to these things. Because he's not a king. He's a puppet on strings, screaming for the amusement of others. What is one more pratfall to a man like that? To a monarch better labelled a jester?

Don't think about jesters, he urges himself, clawing for calm. No jesters. Fuck jesters.

Head ringing, mouth full of straw, he rolls out of the hay and into the mud. He is tired. So tired. He wonders if he should bother getting up, because if he gets up he'll have to find people, and people will lock him away again. They'll turn him into an even greater spectacle, and in time he'll be killed. Not on his terms, but theirs.

He is strangely okay with that. But he would prefer to be drowned by the rain. It seems gentler.


He closes his eyes. Maybe, he thinks, that was simply the nudge of death.

Nudge. Nudge.

No, no. Just go away.

Nudge. "Hey. Jeffrey. Are you alive?"

The king shakes his head in a negative. The motion confirms the opposite of its intent.

A hand, unseen but felt, reaches down and grips the king's arm. It pulls him, unwilling, to his feet. He groans and grumbles, not wanting to see the world again, knowing it will judge him for things he could not control but which he nevertheless regrets. 

Regrets. He could build a new kingdom with his regrets.

The helping hand moves from his arm to his shoulder. And, strangely, it offers him a small pat. It's a gesture of comfort that the king hasn't felt in a long time. He opens his eyes.

A man in green with a soggy white frill around his neck is standing there. He has an ugly haircut. "I saw what you did."

The king nods dopily. What did he do?

"That was…" The man in green coughs into one mud-stained fist. "That was a good shot. You probably saved the mayor."

The king nods again. This he remembers. Faintly. It was one of the few things he'd ever done of his own volition.

The man in green extends his fingers. "Thank you. For… not running away. I suppose."

Yes. That's true. I didn't run away.

The king accepts the handshake. Then, unceremoniously, as though the weight of the world is suddenly crushing his shoulders, he faints. That's enough free will for one day.


  1. I love this. Perhaps oddly, I'm finding Jeffrey's predicament the most gripping thing at the moment. Really feel for him. It's not just that though, it's... this. I can feel what he's feeling.

  2. I feel bad for Jeffrey now. He should be free. Maybe he knows something that will be helpful. Even if he wasn't able to fight against it, he might have learned things about them.