by Şerban Andrei Mazilu
“Madness is so boring, isn’t it, Lewis? Yeeees… So utterly mundane, so predictable when you start noticing the pattern. Look at you, man! You’re doing the mouse thing. The crazy old bastard, petting his little minion in a deranged and fanatic way, until there’s no life inside the poor creature… And even then you don’t stop, still pressing against it’s white body with your sweaty palms, absorbed and fascinated by how it becomes destroyed little by little. You are sick, Lewis. Your behavior is beyond normality, no doubt. …You’re also boring the magic out of me.”
“Why is that, Mr. Redthorn?” the hunched form asked from his shadowed cell corner, bits and scraps of his massively flesh form escaping into the candlelit gray room.
“Because that’s all you’ll ever do, Lewis. Until the sparks of insanity die in your eyes along with the poorly lit fire of life that, for whatever reason, still burns inside your pathetic excuse of a body. You’ll never be cured, for there is really no cure for madness… All those imbeciles at the Institute are wrong; you are trapped, like so many others afflicted by this epidemic, in a vortex of infinite depths. There’s no pulling you out… There’s just… observing how fast and how far you sink. And even then… we’ll barely know what you truly see. For me, us, there’s just the shallow, vague clues your physical shell is kind enough to offer. Like petting that animal corpse for hours…” the sage responded and cleared his throat. “Boring routine. An oxymoron, I believe. Yes. Routine, boring by default. Repetitive, redundant and useless. A cretin would manage to recognize your pattern, what makes you, as a madman… you.”
Gavin stepped into the light, the bright yellow spotlight shaping his features, chiseled jaw covered in a dark brown and carefully trimmed beard, and the glittering intelligence behind the hazel eyes. He leaned slightly, looking regal in his arcane vestments, and studied the man in ragged tan clothing. In comparison, he was a god in midnight blue threads looking down on a dying centipede. He spoke again, in his confident tone, words rolling off his tongue like hammer blows. It made Lewis tremble every time the wizard reinforced them with his educated accent.
“And they want to cut into your head, Lewis… They want to dig. Idiots… They should cut inside their own minds and find the proof of their limitless stupidity.” He looked at the hunched mass and whispered in a manner as comforting and warm as any of his kind could manage. Not quite comforting nor warm, to be honest. “I do hope they end it for you. Since you don’t really have a hold over your own life… It is quite sad, I must admit…”
“What is, Mr. Redthorn?” Lewis mumbled and shrieked, curved in a ball in his corner.
“Being a slave to other minds. Being a puppet.” he whispered back and paused for a second, possibly picturing what that would be like. “That I do pity – you may be a puppet, but no other man has the right to pull your strings. No other man who can, and maybe will, turn into a puppet himself…”
“Why then, Mr. Redthorn? Why am I being held here? I’ve done nothing but love… For, me family’s sake, I’ve loved them. I held them close as I would the rest of the world. There be nothing and no one to threat from me freedom…” Lewis coughed in a hoarse voice, then sneezed violently. The remains of the white mouse sprayed the stone wall and he suddenly became surprised. The man paused and blinked, then carefully started picking the scraps of dead flesh into his palm.
“I don’t know” Gavin answered even though he knew he might have just be speaking to the wall nearby. “Freedom of will. Even mad will… That is to be considered.”
The wizard straightened and flashed a small smile at the ill man. He turned on his black boots and marched to the massive iron gate. Midway he noticed the hay bed and lack of any windows, even a small barred one.
“Give this poor man a blanket and make sure he is kept well. In a strange way, his madness, even criminal tendencies, make him as innocent as an cherub.” Gavin ordered the plate clad soldier standing guard, without offering him a single glance.
“Sure thing, your excellency!” the farmer-faced man responded bitterly, striking at the sage with arrows from his steel glance. “I’ll make sure ‘e gets some o’ them silk covers from ‘is Majesty’s bedchamber as well…”
Gavin turned and raised his hand, forming three arcane bolts spinning in a triangle pattern, burning with white light. The guard widened his eyes and babbled:
“You… You’d be executed, you will, if you strike a soldier down! Aye!”
“If I release this, there will be no remains of the said soldier. Where there’s no body… there’s no crime” the mage replied calmly. Now… You will do as I asked, as you would for any man sentenced to death. For, make no mistake, his life will end soon enough. And you will do well to remember that, while his essence is gone, his flesh and bones and blood are still entitled to mercy.”
“Mercy” the soldier confirmed in a rush. “Got it, Sir! Mercy he shall ‘ave!”
“Huh…” Gavin snorted. “I’m surprised you were so receptive. The thought of disintegrating your sorry excuse of a brain was rather appealing… But…” he sighed dramatically “…giant muscles, though not hard to find, serve their purpose, I guess…”
The mage absorbed the energy bolts back into his wide, golden-trimmed sleeves, and slid his hands inside them, crossing his chest. As he turned and left through the black corridor, he could hear the guard’s sweat drip off his face. He made no sound, almost like floating away and fading into the void of shadow.
A bright moon revealed the cobblestone pathways of the citadel. Up, in the city, the Luna Institute’s towers rose like a sinister claw, burying itself out of the ground. A chill and a stench passed by his nose as he strolled slowly through the labyrinthine streets of Delnar City. Sewage, wet decaying hay and rotten food. It was all amazing, for while in permanent darkness, the urban center was so well supplied that, on occasions such as this, some of the populous afforded throwing it away. Yet there was still famine in the ranks of the beggars… From under the large flowing hood, Gavin scanned the marketplace, filled with life even so late. At least he thought it was late, as he always did; it never got any easier for the wandering mage, for twenty years of sunlit days could not be forgotten in mere weeks.
He turned his inquisitive gaze towards the dock. A modest and rotting excuse of a harbor, where ships larger than life actually made port. Street thieves, pirates, hooligans and whores. Illusionists, blood drinkers, gargoyles and some dwarven folk. They made him laugh. Why he ever left the tranquil gardens of Benj he could not recall. Something about the Book of Whispers came to mind; that dreadful artifact that persuaded him, in it’s dark ways, to visit Luna. Some children crossed his path, running, almost making him trip.
“Careful, you little buggers! Or I’ll turn you into furry turtles!” he shouted at them.
“Turn this!” a snotty, red haired one yelled back and flipped him off.
“Holy werecat! Talk about a gap in the system…” he muttered and then rose his voice at the child: “Is that what you little shits learn in school these days?!”
“No!” the kid yelled, turning to face him from the other side of the plaza. A dark smile flashed on his lips as he muttered something Gavin could not hear.
“What?!” he shouted, but then blinked in surprise. His vision blurred suddenly, his blood froze. With the rest of his focus, he read the words the spoiled brat was shouting back of him, in a short bursts, like speaking to a moron: “That. Is. What. We learn!”
Gavin instinctively turned and glanced upon a small burning green demon. A grin larger than it’s face met the wizard, as it handed him his own kidneys. It seemed to snicker and jump with joy, then screamed in a high pitched manner as it’s flame-like body dissolved along with the kid’s incantation.
“Blimey!” the wizard cursed as he collapsed to the ground.
You bloody bundle of evil! I told you not to do that to people. Look at this mess! …Oh, we’re so incredibly shagged! He’s a freakin’ mage, he is! the woman’s voice rang inside Gavin’s almost unconscious mind.
Relax, Miss! I’ll be havin’ him up and running in no time… Loudmouth arcane prick!
Thomas! Don’t make me butt rape your soul again!
Oi, ye be a nasty one, Miss…
“Fucking warlocks…” Gavin mumbled… and died.