Marcin Dolecki, Philosopher’s Crystal (Prologue)

 

Prologue new illustration

Illustration by Rosann A. Portes

 

“Commissioner, has lucid dreaming ever happened to you?”
Tassatarius asked.
“Yes, Your Majesty. I have found myself in such a situation
a few times,” the short, graying man in a midnight blue uniform
replied, standing by the Emperor’s ebony writing desk.
The large cabinet beside the table was mostly empty. Behind
the Monarch, sitting in his opulent armchair, there was a
bookcase where along the edges hunched two carved gryphons,
a vintage clock in the corner, and a world map in a golden frame
on the wall.
Wespe had always felt uneasy when his Lord asked him peculiar
questions like this one.

“And when it happened, did you ever talk about it with the
people in your dreams?” the Emperor said, slowly turning pages
of a notebook in a blue, leather cover. “Did you try to convince
them that you were only dreaming of them?”
“I do not remember… but no, I do not think I did,” the
Commissioner stuttered.
He did not know which of his answers would be safest
for him.
“Perhaps, you should have done so? Don’t you think? It
could be quite…” The ruler did not finish, instead he just smiled
enigmatically and whispered, “Perhaps you have already made a
serious mistake?”
“It is very… likely…. I do believe it is worth trying,” Wespe
answered with a short hesitation.
“What if you do not get another chance?”
He knew that the Emperor was toying with him – he also
knew that Tassatarius, who at this time was in his seventies, frequently
entertained himself in this manner, which had already led
to the death of many of his subjects. The Commissioner had even
heard of an incident when the ruler asked one of his generals who
had been complaining to him about a rival, “If I could solve your
problem quickly or in a subtle yet slow way, which would you
prefer?” The general had chosen the first option and the Emperor
had him executed the next day. No one had dared ask what would
have happen if he had chosen the second possibility, but – most
likely – the Monarch would have simply killed him some days or
weeks later. In such situations quite a lot depended on the Emperor’s
mood, and it was always extremely difficult to guess. Some
had speculated that his appearance in silver robes indicated that
he was about to implement sudden judgements – but that day
Tassatarius was wearing gold attire.
Wespe had brought this mysterious notebook – found by
chance in the flat of two former university professors – to the palace,

as he believed correctly that it would be of some interest to
his ruler. He also expected that by doing so, he would once again
find favor with the Emperor; nonetheless, he could also lose his
position at court altogether, or even more than that – his life.
Still, he had resolved to take the risk, which Tassatarius always
encouraged, and was now beginning to regret his decision.
The Emperor placed the notebook on his desk and looked
the Commissioner in the eyes. Wespe gulped, reaching for the
top button of his uniform jacket to make sure that it was done
up. He felt himself shrinking under the piercing gaze of Tassatarius,
yet he was not able to shrink down small enough to
become invisible. It appeared that this dreadful moment would
never end. The lines of wrinkles on the Monarch’s face resembled
a map of an evil land. The Commissioner felt drawn into
this treacherous terrain by the old man’s blue, mesmerizing
eyes. The ticking of the clock became louder, causing him to
feel a terrible headache. Wespe could hardly stand this life on
the verge of existence.
“This notebook is signed with the first name only, ‘Oscar.’
You will find out who the author is and, if he is still alive, you will
bring him before me,” the Emperor said finally.
“Of course, Your Majesty. I shall immediately interrogate
the people to whom the notebook belonged,” Wespe assured.
The corner of the old man’s mouth twitched as he reached
for a cup and poured himself some coffee from a brownish jug on
the writing table, taking a small sip. He never ever invited his
subjects to have a cup of coffee with him.
The Commissioner looked across at the object on the Emperor’s
desk: the famous scepter. Tassatarius carried it with him
always. Wespe had heard that it was a dangerous thing, but no
one was able to explain how so. Papers covered the scepter, and
only a tiny part of it – a fragment of a silver tube with a diamond
at the end – was visible. Nevertheless, Wespe knew what it was.

The Emperor noted his curious gaze towards his desk, and
then for a moment stared once more at the officer, and ordered,
“You may leave.”
The Commissioner popped himself up like a suddenly released
spring, saluted, and left the chamber; the two gryphons
watched him motionless. It was not until he found himself outside
the palace walls that he felt slight relief. There a big, black
car was waiting for him. A door silently opened. Wespe stepped
in and slumped into the back seat of the vehicle where he wiped
his face with a handkerchief.
“Is everything okay, Commissioner?” the driver asked.
“Go to Zera Yacob Street. And no questions,” the officer
ordered, closing the tinted car door as his driver sped off.

 

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