“What is it that keeps you here?” I asked him. He was old, probably older than dirt which only meant that he was ancient, but he was human in all the senses that humanity were. He ate. He breathed. And he watched football. Or at least that was my impression of it.
“Duty,” he replied. The ArchDuke was no stranger to being in the land of Arcadia. He guarded the iron tower, a place I’ve seen in my dreams and a place I thought would keep me safe. It was him who grabbed me that day. I had trespassed into the world of the faes, unknowingly and foolishly. Yet, that Arcadia was different from this one. That one was filled with desert and sand. This one was filled with grass and of course, an open mine field as the iron tower was highly booby-trapped. It was not an open place for visitors.
“You know my duty will be over soon. I will leave.”
He glanced up at me. “I’ve come to view you as a daughter,” he said. I wondered if that was a lie or if it was truth. I couldn’t tell. Being human made him dishonest and being ancient made him cunning. “I wouldn’t want you to go so soon.”
I sighed and gave him the best smile I could. I pulled the parchment paper out of my pocket and held it up to him. “I have a free pass to enter and leave as I please,” I replied. “I’m certain I shall visit.”
“Even I only visit here,” he told me. That much was true. The ArchDuke didn’t live in Arcadia, at least not to my knowledge. Where his home was, I wasn’t sure, but I knew it wasn’t here on earth…
My mind flickered to a boy, a man, really who was a decade older than I am–but ages aside, where did the ArchDuke live? Where did all supernatural creatures reside?
“Xyr is with me,” I replied. “I doubt I can get rid of that one although he is quite compliant at doing any bidding I need when I have need of him.” Treating dying gods not yet dead as servants wasn’t quite the idea they had in mind as reverence, but I highly doubted their interest in me didn’t include rendering me expendable so I might as well use what I’ve got and make the best of it.
For once, the ArchDuke chuckled. It was difficult to get a smile out of him, much less, something halfway between a smirk and a laugh.
“And that is why you feel so much like a daughter to me.”
“Don’t tell me they’ve kept you locked here away in this castle, pretending you’ve got freedom when you’re really a slave, and didn’t even allow you the courtesy of having children around.”
“No, my dear. You see, I don’t have any children. I’ve already had them.” And somehow, there stretched generations and generations forth of his kin, carving their own fates through time to the current present.
“I feel for you,” I told him. His blue eyes were still so blue and he wore black now, as if our parting was meant to be a heavy heart event. “I wouldn’t want to live forever. I’m not exactly immortal character. I’m much more immoral and that doesn’t fit well with any length of time and unimaginable power.”
He laughed and I wondered if his laughs were an attempt at a last goodbye. I couldn’t stay. Okay, I lied. I could’ve, but Arcadia wasn’t my home and to be split into pieces like I am now–really did no harm, but the point of the matter was that my time was up. I vassalized myself and now, the deed is finished.
The thought of the human vessels I owned came to mind and I pushed the thoughts away. Whether this was the same thing or not, I wasn’t too keen on becoming anyone’s property. Vessels held whatever their owners wanted in them. Mine held demons I pulled out of the children of men. Most of those entities now float in free space, cast off into the farthest reaches of the universe, bound with no hopes of returning. What was I to him? A vessel for a god? No. A god who couldn’t out best my god, which wasn’t even a god at all, is no god. And yet, they each have their own personalities and their own pasts.
“You are a dear one,” he said. “Make no mistake of that.”
I grinned. “You only like me because I know your grandson.”
He erupted in laughter at that. I imagined him like William–blond, blue eyed, going bald–perhaps a bit of an Englishman if I was able to pinpoint his origins. “Grandson? No, and yes. A child of Xyr’s is a child of mine.”
“My same point,” I replied. I was told very few things, short of being told that I was crap and worthless as well. The thoughts anger me as the one who said it angers me and I wished to banish him to the deepest darkest depths of hell if that was possible, yet he resides a constant image in my head and that, I hated and loved all at the same time.
“That would make you a granddaughter.”
I shrugged. “I like old people. It’s fine. You should see my collection. Currently, I have three old ladies that I like, two old men, and I’m certain that collection is growing. I can throw both you and him in there, and Xyr too since he’s quite up there in age.”
“You don’t cease to amuse me,” he replied.
“You sound like many other men,” I told him. “I wish one other person thought so.”
“He will,” the ArchDuke replied. “In time.”
“I wish not to be here in time.” I turned away. The place was so empty. It must’ve been lonely for him being here for so long. Where were all the servants? The dragon keepers and tenders–where were they? The castle was void of life and of even the faintest sounds of footsteps.
“You want to leave now?” I didn’t know if that was genuine pain in the inflection in his voice.
“You said I should leave as soon as I can,” I told him. “He said I did this to myself, which I did and he never forewarned me, knowing it all.”
If there were such things as giants, the ArchDuke was one. He towered me and stood perhaps seven feet tall. Or maybe I only felt that small that he was so big. I’ve been disappointed many times and with many people. One more wouldn’t break me.
“I did say you should leave. The world of faes is not for humans.” He paused. “You are here now. You still wish to go?”
“I cannot stay beyond the agreement made.”
“A broken agreement.”
“I held up my end of the bargain, until Mayfel disappeared.”
“And you will never find her,” he whispered in my ear from behind. His hands were steady on my shoulders, heavy as if all the magic he now possessed would turn me to stone at that point so I was going to become a permanent fixture in his home, a cure for his loneliness, perhaps. Where were the dragons?
“I don’t wish to find those that betray me.”
“You betrayed her first,” he said.
“I didn’t realize I was betrayed by someone I trusted,” I replied. It was easy to trust him, as easy as it was to trust his beloved and look where I went wrong there. Three times I was warned to not trust her and I did. Look how far I fell! And twice now, I’ve been warned to being disappointed by him. I know a third one is not far behind. I wasn’t sure if it was disappointment or betrayal.
“Don’t be so sad,” he said. “You have your whole life ahead of you.”
I nodded. “What of you?” I asked him. “What will happen to you?
He smiled. “Funny you worry about me. I will go back to the way that things were before you came.”
That was understandable. If I stayed any longer, I feared the Sims would no longer satisfy my evil cravings for death and destruction and I would take my rampage on existing worlds. Boredom drives me to terrible dangers.
A voice echoes in my head, one that spews out criticism and self-doubt for me. One that chains me with his notions of the insignificance of my existence. Fuck you, I thought to the voice. Since you believe me to be weak, why do you keep tearing me down with your own opinions of my insignificance? Who cares if I believe that I make a difference to others? Since I don’t mean a damn thing to you, fuck off.
The voice wavers and is silent. He’s still silent.
“I will come visit,” I told the ArchDuke. “I am good on my words.”
“I know you are,” he said. He hesitated and I knew he have watched us from the beginning of the agreement.
“You want me to tell him something?” I asked.
“If you don’t mind,” he replied.
“He only bothers me when I think about the bad,” I said. “Most of the time, I’m stupid happy to hear from him so if you have a message, I shall give it to him.”
He nodded. He doesn’t look as old as he is. Was if fae magic that kept him ageless? Or was it my own perversion of not wanting to develop a fetish for old people since I everyone I do take a liking to is much older than myself? It’s the conversation that interests me. Old people can hold an intelligent conversation that isn’t filled with vulgarity and sex and the ignorance of today’s youth and that’s what attracts me.
“What he’s looking for is right in front of him,” the ArchDuke said. “If he can’t understand it, then he’s not as bright as I’ve given him credit for.”
I laughed. “He’s bright, alright. It’s catching him in a talkative mood which makes the difference. And that’s slim to none lately.”
“He’ll come around,” was all he said to me.
“I’m leaving, you know,” I told him. “New York, maybe. I’d like to go to Japan, but that’s a bit of a stretch right now. Maybe I’ll get lost amongst the crowd in the big city.”
“You’re never lost in the crowd.” He pressed his lips on my forehead like he does at times. Then he stiffened and with eyes that sparkled, said in a cold voice to me. “You’re free to leave now.”
I almost protested the icy departure command, but I realized he had a visitor. The ArchDuke hardly ever had visitors. I said nothing, stared at him as I bowed, and walked off in the opposite direction, not looking to see who was the one who entered into the chambers. By the magic content, it was fae. And by the familiarity of a chest stab to the heart, it was female. It was the winter Queen.