193. “Smile, you fool”

193 (a). Smile, you fool

Smile, you fool.  Nod your head and laugh a little.  Act like you’re enjoying yourself.” – Countess Gisele Phien

The Countess Gisele Phien, like every other guest at the Count At-Tura’s betrothal party, is unable to leave for fear of her life.  The Count’s father is being held under armed guard at the guest residence, whilst his mother is locked up further away in the estates summer house.  And yet I soon discover that it is the Count himself who is the prisoner.

The Lady Adima, his betrothed, has used alchemic potions to induce the Count into a deep dreaming sleep and, in much the same way as the Supernal Dreamers, seduced and subjugated him to the point where she now dominates his very disposition.  It would appear that the master key to unlocking this elaborate prison lies deep within the Counts subconscious, and I must make myself a part of it if I am to free the captives of the At-Tuar estate.

But just as I am about to drink the potion that will allow me to slip into Hosni’s dreams, I hesitate, as my conscience flashes a memory into my mind of a poor destitute wretch, curled up, shivering and whimpering in the corner of a prison cell, staring blankly, neither seeing nor hearing the panic and barbarity that is happening all about him.

It was during the manic chaos of the prison break from Coldharbour that I came across this fellow inmate paralyzed by shock.  I wanted to wake the poor man from his hysteria, to rouse him to at least die with a weapon in hand.  But as I was about to shake him, I stopped, at that very moment I become lucidly aware of our plight, and that no delirium, and no nightmare, no matter how frightful and incapacitating, could be as dreadful as the horror which surrounded us at that moment, and to which I was about to recall him.

It’s funny, but when life seems too difficult to endure, and I wish nothing more than to hide my face from the unkind judgement of the sun, my conscious feels lighter for leaving him be.  Yet when I taste hope upon the morning breeze, and I yearn for a cloudless sky once again, my conscious weighs heaviest, and I can bear my reflection the least.

Sometimes you must first free yourself of your own fetters before you can free others from theirs.  For most of us it’s about finding a cause greater or more deserving then our own.  The cause that I need to inspire me is the freedom of the Countess Gisele Phien, and as I drink the potion and enter the strange beauty of the Counts dreamscape, I begin my fight to reach her jailer.

S.K

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