Tuesday, December 10, 2019

What are Memories

Who am I? My name is Caroline and I am the daughter of a minor lord. Though my father commanded a respectable number of men in his king’s army, my mother saw to it that I never thought too greatly of myself; she always said that men didn’t like a woman who thought too highly of herself. She feared that father would never find a good husband for me if I were too proud; she worried. I suppose she worried that I was getting too old to wed and since I was an only child, if I didn’t wed, there would be no chance to ally with another great family.

One day, my father came home from the battle with news from the king himself. “Caroline,” he said, before he had even shed his armor. “Ready yourself, the king has accepted my proposal to take you to wife.”

I refused of course. “Absolutely not, father. I’m not good enough for the king. What would he want with me?” The very thought of approaching the king and becoming his wife frightened the living daylights out of me. What did I know of men, and he was the king.

My father and mother didn’t seem too pleased about it either though you’d think they would have been ecstatic at the prospect of marrying their daughter to the king. But father insisted. “If you turn him down now, he’ll be furious,” he said. “You have no idea how important this is to the wellbeing of the kingdom. I want you to go to him. You might even be able to help him. With you at his side, it could turn the tide for us.”

I lost my temper at that. “I don’t want this war. I certainly don’t see the sense in helping him keep it going. I don’t even understand his goals. I hate him!” I yelled at my father, but he was stone faced and wouldn’t hear it.

“Varian needs someone and he had consented to take you,” he yelled back, but he still refused to say why it had to be me. Surely there were other much more qualified women from which to choose.

One day, father told me that he thought Varian might be addicted to something. He told me he feared it was affecting his memory and consuming his energy. He feared Varian was becoming irrational because he was calling halts at odd times and he seemed to be having trouble with the power that moved his machines. I thought it was odd that he would give me this information, but perhaps he was trying to play to my sympathies.

I knew about this power. All the great families had some, and it was maintained by wise men who knew its secrets. Everyone knew that to touch it was death. Only the strongest of wizards could escape that sentence, and even they did not touch it willingly. It was also rumored that some wizards who touched the power too often grew to love it too much, so if Varian was addicted to that, either he was a wizard and the power was like a drug for him, or he thought the power would make him stronger. Again, I didn’t understand the man or his war.

Father worked on me until I finally relented. We packed up all my belongings into an open, one-horse cart, and he took me to the edge of the king’s encampment where he turned me and the wagon over to one of the outer sentries. He mounted his horse, and without another word to me, he left with his men. The sentry called the watch commander who came and escorted me on into the camp and to the king’s private van, where he left me to present myself. I thought this was all rather odd, but perhaps my father had fallen out of favor since the battles had been going badly lately, or perhaps my delays had caused hard feelings between them. I hoped not.

I knew that if I thought about it much longer I would become quite angry with my father. He was giving me to the king like some kind of trophy, and without so much as a goodbye, but I squelched the thought before it could do its damage. I was terrified; I was going to meet the king any time now, but no one was moving, so I decided that it was up to me to move. I was a little surprised when the guards let me pass into the king’s trailer without a word; they just came to attention as if I passed through their ranks every day.

Once inside the door, I didn’t see him in the darkened trailer. I knew he had to be here; his personal guards would not have been standing outside otherwise, but he was nowhere to be seen. That meant that he must be in his bedchamber or in some other small nook I couldn’t readily see from the door. The thought so frightened me. I was afraid to call out. I almost turned and ran back to my father, but he would be long gone by now. Instead, I steeled myself and took a few more steps into the room towards a small table that held a tiny lamp. To my horror, I succeeded in kicking him. He had been huddled on the floor behind a small cabinet near one of the outlets, and I had succeeded in tripping over one of his feet.

He was so angry at being bothered, or perhaps being caught, that he jerked his hand from the hole in the wall and jumped to his feet, whirling on me. I thought he was going to beat me, or even yell at me, and perhaps, if I had been anyone else, he might have done just that, but instead, he looked at me as if he were looking at a ghost. His mouth was open, and all the blood drained from his face. I was terrified to the point of fainting, but I’m not the fainting type.

I don’t know what possessed me. He was my father’s king and general and I was no one, but my mother had always taught me to be practical. “We have to put a stop to that right now,” I said as I pulled him bodily away from the corner where he had been huddled. I intended to get at the outlet and replace its cover. The thought that I should prostrate myself didn’t occur to me in time to stop my action.

He let me move him for about two steps before he grabbed me up into a hug that was so fierce it frightened me even more. Then he started saying crazy things.

“You’ve come. I’m so relieved. I need you so badly,” he said into my hair while he continued to crush me to him like a drowning man.

Why would he possibly need me? I remembered seeing him once across the battlefield, but I had never met him, and yet he seemed to know me far better than I knew him.

He wanted to sweep me off to his bedroom, but I pushed him away. “I did not come to you as a harlot, my lord,” I said. “I expect to be wed properly before I ventured beyond this room. If you will be so kind as to provide me with proper quarters until then…”

He seemed a little confused by this, but he relented quickly enough, and set about making the arrangements immediately. He strode quickly to the door, throwing it open. “Set up a pavilion. I’ll sleep there until another van can be brought up. The lady will sleep here.”

I was aghast. I was not a lady. I was only the daughter of one of his generals. When he turned back to me, I objected. “My lord, you mustn’t give up your van to the likes of me.”

“Of course I must. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said as he reached out a hand and touched my cheek, and then my shoulder as if he still couldn’t believe I was standing there and he needed the physical touch to tell him it was true.

I stepped back a bit. “Please sire, I do not even know you.”

His face fell; he looked as if I had just broken his heart, but he didn’t say anything about it, and true to his word he moved to the pavilion as soon as it was ready, but since all of his things were in the van, he spent almost every waking moment with me.

He moved the camp the next morning to a wide plush valley where the grazing was good and the watch duty was easy, then he began to consult his books.

As time went on, he told me bits and pieces of his intentions. He told me what he thought he had learned from the books and what he thought he learned from the power outlets he was constantly touching. It was horrible to watch; he’d stick his hand in behind this thing in the wall and then he would curl up and twitch helplessly. Sometimes he would moan and cry out softly. I guess he could get out of it himself; after all, he had been doing it long before I came along, but I never watched him go the whole time myself. Every time I saw him, I pulled him away. It got so that he never did it while I was looking, but he could be quick about it when I turned my back.

Every time I pulled him off, I got a charge too, if only for a second. I think it must have been this that starting to give me bad dreams, or at least very strange dreams. Dreams where everything was different from what I knew. My dreams told me that Varian and I had loved and even married before, but someone without a face had taken me away from him during a time of chaotic confusion. Had he declared war to get me back? If this was true then why was he still fighting it? There were other things in my dreams that were different too, but aside from knowing that fact, I didn’t remember any of it.

Another dream hinted that there had been a son. So he kept fighting to reclaim a son, but these were just dreams, weren’t they? That one made me feel strange inside though, so I went to find my father’s encampment. When I couldn’t find it, I asked around, but no one seemed to know who I was talking about. That evening I tried again, and again no one knew who I was talking about; one man told me that he thought my father was dead, but that couldn’t be true, he had brought me here only a few days ago. I couldn’t even find any of his men, so I went back to Varian to ask him about it.

He listened patiently while I told him about my problem finding my parents and my reasons for why I wanted to speak with them.

He asked a lot of questions about them and I discovered that I didn’t have many of the answers. Then he told me to accompany him when he did his thing with the power outlet. I refused of course; I had enough trouble sleeping at night without having to worry about becoming addicted like he was. A fine pair we would make then.

The very idea was frightening to me, but he convinced me to try. “You want your nightmares to stop, don’t you? I believe this will do it. And you can’t get addicted to it after only one try,” he said. I shuddered to think about it. “I do it all the time and all it does is leave me confused for a little while. After I put together what I’ve seen, I’m fine.”

I had my reservations about his definition of ‘fine’ but he did seem to be getting better since I was able to interfere most of the time with the length of his fixes. “The power is supposed to kill any but the most powerful wizards who touch it. It’ll kill me.”

“Trust me, it won’t,” he said and held his hand out to me. Was he saying I was a witch? There was no witch blood in my family. But he was my king and he seemed to know much more about such things than I ever could so I took his hand. I could feel my own hand shaking in his firm grip.

We sat down on the floor beside the outlet. He curled up around me as if to be my chair and then he took my hand and together we stuck our hands into the wall to touch the wires in back. I felt him tightened up around me and begin to tremble, but then I was swept away on a reality trip to end all reality trips. Everything I knew to be true broke up and drifted apart into pieces along with parts of information designed to give me enough foundation to hide the machinations of the spell they had worked on me. In its place was the reality I had grown up with; the one Varian was fighting so hard to reclaim, and he was fighting against master wizards and witches alone to do it.

I remembered it all and was sickened by what had been done to me, to us. The parents I had been looking for were the people who had taken me away from this life of love and happiness with Varian. My ‘mother’ had been the witch who had constructed the spell that created what I had thought was my life. My real parents were both powerful in magic and I too in my turn. They had been dead since I was a child, and Varian and I had grown up together. Our son had also been swept away in the same attack that had shattered my life, and it angered me to no end, but I didn’t have time to dwell on my memories, I had to get Varian out of this. He had some wizard blood in him and that had allowed him to survive what he had been doing, but it was killing him slowly anyway. He had indeed become addicted, and though he had started doing it for good reason, it had to stop now or I would loose him again and now I had the power to stop it. I was the witch in the family; I was perfectly capable of doing this at any time and I knew that I had many times in the past. Varian needed to direct the armies; I couldn’t do that.

We would find our son, but first Varian needed to be weaned before it killed him. I pulled him away from the outlet, and while he lay there shaking and sweating, I cast a spell on him. I thought about shielding the outlets from his touch, but there were many other ways that he could find to continue his addiction. Though I hated to do it, the only alternative I saw was to make it so he could not touch the power outlets or any other source he found. I knew it would be very hard on him, but I was here to help him through it all.

I called his guards inside to help me put him in his bed and then I called for his second in command. When the man arrived, I informed him that I had regained all my memories and what I had done to Varian. He welcomed me back and seemed relieved that I was myself again.

I questioned the man about what he knew concerning the whereabouts of my son, but unfortunately, he knew nothing.

I reviewed my newly reacquired memories of the council members; Galois, the man who had played my concerned father and Marika, the woman who had played my worried mother had both been members. When the council had shattered, the palace had nearly come apart. My memories didn’t tell me whether the building was left standing, but the battle that had waged within its walls had been enough had anyone tried for that end. Commander Caisson told me that during the battle the family apartments had been breached and our son, Kalon, has not been seen since. No one had been left alive in that wing, but his small body was never found. His nanny and her husband who was Kalon’s personal bodyguard were both killed in the attack.

My list of names was minus only two; there had been no small child where I had been kept. I had never considered it at the time; my life was carefully constructed and kept simple, but I knew now that there are always children around. Servants had families and those families had children of all ages. As soon as they were old enough, they worked along side their parents in whatever capacity they could handle. At the place where I had been kept, there were no families. All the servants were old men; the only woman aside from my ‘mother’ had been an old woman who did the laundry down in the well house. She was always washing something and another old man was always drawing up the water for her. Was that the only thing he did? I didn’t know. Perhaps he was there to ensure that I never lingered and to ensure that the woman didn’t talk.

“Commander Caisson, do you know where Lord Galois lives?”

“Of course, my lady. We have been fighting Galois and his men for the last six months, ever since you were sighted there. The terms for his life were to deliver you alive and then leave the country.”

“I want to go there immediately; there may be some clues left there.”

“At once, my lady,” he said and turned.

“Send the doctor in,” I said before he reached the door. He nodded and was gone.


   

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this very much. Now ... I'm wondering what happens next. It has to be unusual ... the whole story is very interesting.

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    Replies
    1. That's the entire point behind this entire blog. I just don't know what happens next. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

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