I spent nearly two weeks
at the Duke's castle. From the moment I stepped into his home, servants
saw to my every wish. At first they bathed me in milk and honey and
clothed me in silks and satin. I dined with the Duke and his nobles,
and always I sat in the seat of honor and feasted upon the choicest
foods in all the land. Musicians played for me. Jesters entertained
me. Women danced for me.
With every command that
brought me pleasure, I saw the Duke's calculated mind working behind
the mask of his eyes, noting each gift, weighing the compensation
he would exact at the appropriate time.
From the beginning I could
see through his ploy. How could I not? It was as blatant and clear
as day. But I was filled with unreachable memories that dangled beyond
my consciousness. Memories of a future yet to be, or a past that never
was. I did not remember whether those memories were good or bad. I
did not remember what it was he was trying to buy from me. But because
I remembered something, it made me feel good, and I let him draw me
into his confidence, and steal away my loyalty with his deceit.
When I was around him,
I really felt like a child full of whims and fancies, and he was quick
to cater to all of them. I rode horses one morning, and flew in a
hot air balloon the next. I jousted with the knights and wrestled
a crocodile. My days were full and happy, but at night I could not
sleep. I kept hearing a sad siren's song coming from the tower high
in the West Wing.
Whenever I asked the Duke
about the voice that I'd heard, he quickly drew my attention away
by producing a magician who would perform just for me, or presenting
me with a gold lute to play at the fair.
But as I lay awake at
night listening to that angelic voice, she seemed to be answering
all the questions in my mind. I did not need the Duke to tell me that
I was hearing the Queen, a captive in her own land. I knew she was
to wed the Beast, who was coming to claim the Kingdom as his own.
And I knew the Duke was his slave.
On the twelfth night after
my arrival, I saw the Duke unveil the cloak of his deception. A messenger
had brought him word that his master, the Beast, was soon to arrive.
I saw the pain in his eyes and I finally knew what the Duke wished
of me. He longed to be free of his chains. Free of his servitude to
the Beast. But what had I to do with that. How could I set him free?
I longed to talk with
him, man to man. To tell him that I knew his desire. To find out what
he wished of me. But the Duke was busy making the last of the important
preparations. And as night fell and I was about to retire, I realized
that I had not had the chance to speak with him.
Melnor tapped softly on
my door, in the rhythmic pattern that I knew to be his. He had been
true to his promise about being my faithful servant, although he was
much too subservient for my taste. Each day I would beg him to at
least look at me without bowing his eyes in shame or fear or loyalty.
"I am your friend," I would assure him for the thousandth time.
He stood at my beck and
call at all hours of the night and day, and he was around much too
often to suit the Duke, of course. I did not understand why the Duke
disliked Melnor so, although I had noticed that it gave the Duke great
pleasure when Melnor was at his most subservient.
Melnor had the habit of
coming to my chambers before I retired each night to make sure that
I had all that I needed. I often coaxed him into playing a game of
cards with me before he left. I enjoyed those games, for it was the
only time that Melnor treated me as his equal as we battled our wits
against each other; although he did apologize profusely the few times
that he was victorious.
I was rather looking forward
to a game of cards on that night, for I really needed to talk to him
about the Duke, and what I had discovered. But when Melnor entered
that evening, I knew we would not be sitting around playing cards,
nor would there be time for discussions. "Captain Rogetto, my lord,"
he whispered. "We must leave here at once!"
He handed me a cloak,
and I did not argue or question why this name that the Duke had called
me when I arrived seemed to fit now. I slipped the cloak on and followed
him out the door and down the darkened hallway. Until that moment
Melnor had never spoken without being spoken to, and had always stayed
two steps behind me wherever we had gone. I was filled with anticipation
as we slipped into the darkness and our new roles.