Saturday, January 5, 2008

Chapter 26

XXVI

Sangwine had fallen into a regular routine, practically. Gilden, the owner of the swordfighting arena as it were, was pleased yet still vaguely distrustful of Sangwine, entirely because he was an elf, and elves and humans rarely, if ever, reach any sort of eye-to-eye level of understanding. Sangwine had become a sort of peasant sensation, which although it brought him the due measure of ego-padding, it also disturbed him slightly for the reason that he could be discovered, although he hadn’t heard anything from or of Al’bert since that day he’d seen him on the street.

It was falling into a regular routine that bothered him the most. Each day was virtually the same. He went to the same haunts for his meals, fought, was distantly congratulated, and retired to his room, which was empty. The entire process itself was empty and awash with loneliness, regardless of the number of people who surrounded him or admired him. What pricked at him was that in the way that any individual adjusts him- or her-self to extenuating circumstances, he had grown comfortable with his life and its routine. Regardless, the thought of spending the rest of his life, or even another year like this made him severely depressed.

He grew restless, which was a familiar feeling. Even in his youth, but ever more as he’d grown to age, he’d had periods of restlessness, as if something wasn’t quite right but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was. As if change was in the air and he needed to grasp it, see it, or merely note that it was there. The mountains that bordered Schloeffelonia had taunted him back then; He loved them, yet he wanted to see what was beyond instead of merely learning about it from books. Instead he’d prepared himself for a political sort of life, where he would parlay and negotiate and coddle the relations between his and the surrounding peoples in conjunction with his older brother being the king. As time wore on, it had become clear that Sangwine would have to work more and more fervently to maintain relations with other countries, since Fangline had been growing more and more unstable, and so he’d dug further into understanding the intricacies of history and relation.

Even when Fang had left entirely, Sangwine still hoped that he’d come back, prodigal and ready to take the throne. He never in his life expected the throne would be taken in the particular way it was. It all seemed like something that should have happened in another world. Fang rather easily could have had the throne, with very little effort on his part, through entirely legal means and without any bloodshed whatsoever.

Sangwine realized at that moment that Fang would have been miserable with the throne and the seat of Schloeffelonia in the established way. For whatever reason, he was a person who had to do things in his own manner, and the traditional trappings of their shared house were unbearable. There was a limit to the extent to which Sangwine could understand; not due to lack of trying, but because Sangwine was simply made from different stuff. For Sangwine, when he knew something was right, he had to do it. Acting otherwise brought him misery. For Fang, it seemed being forced to fit a round peg into a square hole brought him misery.

Neither could bear what the other required. In this way they were doomed from the beginning to be brothers in blood only.

This brought Sangwine the sort of aching sadness he felt in his bones. He’d always wanted more than the distant treaty they’d had in their youth wherein Fang was passably polite to him if Sangwine stayed out of his way. There were rare times, however, as if Fang possessed more than one personality, that he’d shown a touching kindness. Fang had an immense depth of kindness within him, Sangwine knew, but he had rarely seen it. One would think this would make it easy to forget it existed at all, but instead it had the entirely opposite effect.

He supposed it was the pendulum effect. As Fang was capable of intense depravity and destruction, he was also capable of a well’s depth of the opposite. His brother was never one to be bland, he supposed, but Sangwine was again struck with a sort of agonized wondering as to what would drive Fang to such extremes, when his extremes lead to the murder of his family.

He hated thinking about it. It made the bottom drop out of his combined emotions and thoughts and the deep muddy purple cloud of anguish overcame him again. Most of all, he was dreadfully lonely and useless.

This night he was fighting again, yet another opponent in a long string of opponents. It went on and on in his mind, and he decided he’d discontinue working in the ring fairly soon. Surely he could find something else to do. Perhaps he’d even leave this city and see what is even further north from here. He had no idea what was that way as it was off of any map he’d ever perused, and he didn’t have the adventuresome spirit about him at this particular time of his life to find out, but his dissatisfaction with the way things currently were seemed to be driving him slowly in that direction.

Tonight he stood in the ring, and waited. Part of him subdued the pleasure he got from the obvious sensation his exquisite poise caused in the audience, as it always did, because his training told him absorbing the praise of peasants was an exercise in folly. The masses as a whole lacked refined taste in their behemoth appreciations, and a man who took what they had to say about him to heart was a man built on a straw foundation. Besides, they didn’t know him. They didn’t know he was really a coward.

Sangwine stood there long enough to briefly wonder where his opponent was, when the door to the back slammed open and three men struggling with what seemed to be a box in a blanket came towards the ring. It was a rather smallish box, probably two feet by two feet by again two feet in size, but the three men were having a very hard time holding onto it, and as they reached the ring, they hoisted it over and one of the men fell on it in order to keep it under control.

One of the men glanced at Sangwine with something that looked like wonder and pity, and this caused one of Sangwine’s eyebrows to arch in repressed curiosity blended with trepidation. Nothing really could have prepared him for what awaited beneath the blanket, though, for when the third man swept the blanket aside, he could see through the slats in the box that what he was to swordfight tonight was a feral, mindless, bloodthirsty pixie.

Sangwine fainted.

1 comment:

spastic-freak said...

thank you thank you thank you!

oh cliffhanger of cliffhangers! hee hee, well we know sangwine lives because this all takes place before the comic - and further we know his precious face isn't harmed. this chapter reveals sangwine's depth - he's not as arrogant as we thought. his feelings for fang are as complex and generous as fang's for him appear simple and scrooge-like.

but maybe fang will still surprise us? we don't really know for certain that he killed his father and aunt - maybe they're still alive but imprisoned?

also sangwine's true dedication to whatever's best for the elven realm is now crystal clear. reminds me of corwin, in zelazny's amber series, determining that he wouldn't be the best king. though whether corwin was right about that was unclear to me until the end - and i definitely think sangwine is more suited to the role than fangline.

anyway, the story is rockin'!