II

I killed my father on a cold September night.

Although the physical backdrop of the murder—the shape of the moon (full), the course of the wind (southwest) and the howls of the stonewolves upon it (incessant)—remains fixed in my memory with the same clarity of sensation as the touch of metal shackles which currently fetter my feet, I must confess I remember little regarding the act’s emotional circumstances.

Undoubtedly many of you, particularly those who maintain the illusion of familial association after adolescence, will find this difficult to believe. To members of the jury who harbor such a doubt, I ask from you only one kindness. Approach the story you are about to read—my story—without prejudice or favor toward your own beliefs, wherever they may incline, concerning my actions (which you yet know little about) or their morality (of which you know even less). If, after binding yourself to this impetus of impartiality, the sentence of guilty, which I see sits even now on the lip of your lips, does not waver upon the completion of my tale, I shall accept the punishment of your choosing in silence. I shall walk to my destruction lighthearted and free.

[Translator’s note: In the following passages, Kadon’s account presents several challenges in interpretation stemming from extensive rewrites, changes in handwriting (he appears to switch hands without discernable pattern) and copious notes inserted directly into the manuscript, often without any connection to the surrounding events. Where possible, the most recent revision is presented in strict translation from Palfiri. Kadon’s usage of direct narrative address to the reader is preserved without comment. His notes, which seem to summarize his daily thoughts, have been moved to the appendix—their order preserved for posterity rather than lucidity.]

Many associate their earliest days with the carefree nostalgia of childhood, that absolution of responsibility in the face of more grave concerns. What concerns, you may ask? A foolish question—surely you must know, having once been a child yourself. I speak of lexicological study—that formation of babbling tongue into babbling words (invariably in a language not of one’s choosing). I speak of the development of conversational ability (invariably with other children who, being children, remain ill-suited to teach the delicate art of tête-à-tête). And above all, I speak of that most hideous noise: the laughter and squeals of delight from relatives as they fawn upon one’s every movement, each embarrassing predilection exposed to their greedy eyes before one learns to hide one’s truest self far from any light, far from any sight.

Being born a prince, I suffered doubly these well-meant ministrations.

My first memory (insofar the recollection of a five-year-old can be called such a thing) revolves around the day I met Alexander Ardenont. If you count the mistress of history among your muses, I anticipate the name may strike within you a note of familiarity. For those whom it holds no meaning, perhaps the honorific of Alexander’s compete title at his death should suffice: The Most Honorable Alexander Ardenont Dubois, Emperor of Szaliard and Archduke of Lissenburg. Do your brows rise at the third name? Know then that your intuition remains keen.

Alexander, or Arden as I would come to call him, descended thrice removed from the loins of Jacques Phillip Dubois III, a titanic man whose life’s accomplishments found diminishment in its eponym: The Lion of the Basque. How can a man who conquered half the known world be summarized in five words? Against this argument, I’ve been told on more than one occasion Jacques preferred the moniker—nay, he adored it. How these fellows (all of them agoraphobic historians, jowl-faced and afflicted with the sallow complexion of the sick) knew with such certainty the inclination of a long-dead warrior I cannot say.

In any case, I possessed no such knowledge of Arden’s ancestry when the disconsonant wails of daudytes came floating over our garden’s hedges, amongst whose shadows I tottled under my tutor’s watch. Luthor, who stood with his back to the sound, turned towards it; his jutting chin and sunken face lent his silhouette an anacardic profile in the morning sunlight. What he saw I craved with desperation. After a few breaths he returned to his post, satisfied with his inquiry. Luthor practiced many talents, foremost among them an ability to stand at attention for an interminable period of time without the slightest hint of movement. I would often reduce his presence (if I did not forget it altogether) to that of a hominiformed statue which, through magics I knew not of, moved such that I did not escape its line of sight.

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