35. Possession in great measure (II)
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
The princess was taken from her father and sold to a kingdom far, far away. It was not her father’s wish. Long ago, his line had fallen under the influence of a curious priesthood that had aided them during a vicious battle. So it came to pass that the royal line ruled, but, behind the throne, stood the priesthood. Over the generations, the kings lost faith in their own power and believed that their throne rested entirely upon the whims of the priesthood. The kings became biddable to the high priest, a man whose cloak was decorated with a single eye. If a king should even suggest that he would defy the priesthood, the high priest would cast a glance at him and he would fall silent. The glance said: “Remember what we did for your line long, long ago and remember that we could take it all away if we wished.” And so, behind the scenes, the kingdom became a theocracy; and when the high priest wanted the king’s daughter to be married away, it was done.
The princess was very sad in her new kingdom. She had been sold to an old and dissolute king as a bride for his son. This king’s citadel was in poor repair. The air was fetid from the swampland roundabout, and a thin layer of grease from the underground kitchens had covered all the surfaces of the citadel, making everything, even the bedsheets, sticky to the touch. The young prince was a foppish and decadent boy; he spent more time with other young men, some his lovers, than he did with the princess. His father wanted him to produce an heir, but the young prince was too irresponsible to be interested in that. The princess despised the prince’s weak body and cowardly nature and, eventually, refused to see him altogether. She spent her evenings alone, far from the spiteful talk of the envious women in the court, stitching a new dress of black velvet.
Now around this time a new man appeared at the court of the princess’s father. He was a scholar of eccentric and antique dress who wore the symbol of the Sun on his cloak. He was an inept man, but the court tolerated him because he was quite amusing in his speech and manners. Under the rule of the priesthood, the court had become a somber and miserable place and the scholar-fool seemed to brighten everything up; he was a small star in the court. One day, the king heard this man’s fooling and had him brought to the throne room. The man came and stood right at the king’s shoulder. The king did not know it, but this was an opportunity. The scholar-fool whispered a spell into the king’s ear. At this, the king jolted in his seat. He looked at the high priest and saw his true form: the high priest had the head of a cockroach, complete with two twirling antennae. The king let out a shriek and, reaching for his broadsword, ran the high priest through his left eye with one swift movement. The spell was broken and the king stood tall before his throne. He ordered his guard to take the priesthood out from their temple and force them over a cliff in the wasteland. There is a small hill at the bottom of that cliff and, to this day, the locals call it “Priest Hill” and do not go near the place if they can help it.
The king rode out with his army to recover his daughter, but, when he arrived at the citadel, he found a funeral possession. His daughter, clad in her black velvet dress, had thrown herself from her tower and drowned in the swamp. The king wept and the scholar-fool caught his tears on a handkerchief. He took the handkerchief to the princess’s body and dabbed it on her cheek, whispering a few words. At this, the princess awakened and embraced her father.