Sunday, February 26, 2012

Twin Powers Prologue III

Part I here.
Part II here.

It was quite a puzzle, and after the brief moment stretched into the first brief hour, Josen added to the puzzle his speculations on exactly what was going on behind the closed door. Eavesdropping, of course, was out of the question, as an action far below the position of a steward, and the oak door was too thick to hear anything through anyway. The obvious answer to what was going on was, well, obvious: a lord returning home to his admittedly still attractive wife after a long absence. That was certainly the assumption a majority of the manor's population was adopting, judging from first the snickers delivered by passer-bys, accompanied as time passed on, raised eyebrows on account of their lord's apparent prowess. Josen, for his part, snickered and raised his eyebrows right back, but inside he was seething. Idiots. They were all so stupid. One abrupt arrival and suddenly they were all willing to throw out everything they knew their rulers just so they could get in a few good chuckles and knowing nudges. And Josen had no choice to grin and nod. And wait.
It was all so humiliating. Josen had heard that in other castles, the lords purposefully told their stewards to wait outside the privies for them. The intent behind such an action was clear. The ruler was asserting his authority by impressing upon his servant the latter's utter lack of importance. In Josen's case, Aginor was sending him an message even more pointed: My wife is a vapid, foolish creature with limited use at best. I have spent years avoiding her, and she clearly means nothing to me. Now wait outside this door and do nothing while I fuck her. It didn’t matter that Josen himself was nearly certain that no fucking was actually taking place. What mattered was that everyone else thought there was. With one deliberate act, Aginor was wiping away every vestige of authority Josen ever had, removing every pretension of status Josen held in the eyes of the rest of the manor. And it was deliberate; there was no doubt about that. Sometimes Aginor's actions seemed petty, sometimes downright foolish, but they were always deliberate. If Aginor wanted Josen to stand outside while the rest of castle thought he was swiving his wife, then he had very definitely considered all the consequent events that would follow.
The question was, if Aginor wasn't bedding the Lady Caitlin, then what were they doing? If humiliating Josen was his sole concern, Josen had no illusions that Aginor could devise dozens of ways to do that without involving the woman the lord so studiously avoided. It had to be connected to their recent strange behavior, but beyond that, Josen couldn't fathom what it could be. Again, as he had several times in the past hours, he considered going in. After all, he argued mentally, he was the steward. If the two were discussing matters that were important enough to affect the entire manor, then he had a right, a responsibility, to be present. And if whatever they were discussing wasn't that important, well, then it didn't matter if he interrupted. Then he imagined Aginor's reaction to his intrusion. It would ultimately mean another damned reference that maybe Josen wasn't quite measuring up, that he was suffering from some sort of mental breakdown that rendered him incapable of serving as steward. By itself, the one transgression would be indicative of nothing, but they both knew that if some day caught Aginor's whim, he could trot out an entire list of bizzare actions on Josen's part, a catalog of strange acts more often or not prompted by Aginor's own manipulations, the combined sum of which would provide just enough justification to have him removed. Neither of them had ever explicitly made reference to this weight hovering over Josen, but they were both always aware of its presence—painfully aware, in Josen's case.
Besides, if he opened the door, he might walk in on them rutting.

Later Days.

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