Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Sorcerer's Tale (Chapter 2, Part 1)

Our Story So Far:
     Nicholas Rasputin is a low-level history professor at Oxford University.  He's also the son of Andre Rasputin, Britain's last great wizard/spy and one-time leader of MI-6's Special Section, and he's the great-grandson of Grigori Rasputin, perhaps the most powerful and infamous evil wizard in all history.  However, none of that explains why two American Army officers have come to Nick's classroom to try to strong-arm him into giving them Durandel, the legendary Sword of Kings.

Chapter 2: Amy

It’s a five minute walk to the nearest train station from the Golden Dragon.  In those five minutes, my emotions cycled through the complete gamut, from resignation to resentment, from a general sense of ill-use through simple acceptance and into my all-purpose standby—anger.  My father was gone, and he’d left me with a lot more than just my grief over the loss.  He’d also, apparently, left me with some rather unfinished business.
I sighed.  
With him gone a year now, I’d thought all those fights were over.  That whole, “What are you going to do with your life?” thing seemed a long time ago.  The arguments about how I’ve been ignoring who I am, about how I have an inherent responsibility...  
It’s been bad enough that we never got over it, that we were arguing about it until literally the day he died.  That the echoes of those arguments still ring in my ears because, bottom line, you think you’re going to eventually be able to come to an understanding with someone, that someday they’re finally going to learn to live with and accept the person that you really are, the person that you want to be.  But in real life, that doesn’t happen.  
In real life, they get cancer, and they die.  
And all that time when you ought to be making up after all and everything?  When you ought to be saying what you always thought you’d have time to say?  That’s when your dad has a breathing tube stuck down his throat and tubes coming out of his nose and arms.  And his neck and his chest.  And he’s barely conscious.
My dad was awake for most of that last day.  He couldn’t talk, of course, but he’d somehow managed to get hold of a pen and a piece of paper, and he’d started writing notes.  Through it all, he’d never let them take his athame--though the Lord only knows what he thought he was going to do with it--and when I came in that morning, he’d written me something and wrapped it around the blade’s sheathe.  When he came in, he pressed it on me--note and knife, both--with great vigorousness.
The note read: “I needed your help.  I’m sorry.”
I looked at him and smiled.  “It’s okay, Dad.  But it means a lot to me that you’d take the time to say that.”
But that upset Dad, and he grabbed the note back, as best he could.  His hand shook, but he took the pen and he underlined “your help.”  
“I needed your help.”
I looked at note and then I looked back at my dad.  This was not an apology.  This was a last reminder.  A parting shot about my so-called sacred calling.  This was what he wanted me to remember once he was gone.
A year on, and his athame’s weight still sat heavy in my inner coat pocket.  
“It’s always the same argument, right Dad?  You just can’t let it go, even now.”
I shook my head.  
I’ve always felt like, if Dad chose to spend his life in service, then fine.  But he could at least have done me the courtesy of calling it what it was—a choice.  I mean, yeah, he probably did think that we owed some kind of debt, because of who we are.  And for a time, maybe that was even true given our family’s history.  But Dad’s service went far beyond the depth of obligation.  
The truth is that he loved the life he chose.  He loved his work.  The military, the SIS, the idea of Service; those things were his life’s blood.  The manly life, lived in the company of other men, was as necessary to Dad as the air he breathed.  His first thought in the morning was that he would, through his actions, make Great Britain a better, safer nation.  And his last thought before he went to bed at night was the simple satisfaction of a job well done.  The Realm was saved; War Wizard Andre Rasputin had seen to it.
But the choices of the father do not unalterably devolve to the son.  Yes, I served.  I did my part.  But it had never excited me the way it had excited Dad.  My father was very smart in his own way, make no mistake.  He was a canny tactician, a subtle and intelligent wizard, capable of well-conceived misdirection coupled with stunning violence when such was called for.  Not for nothing had he triumphed at Goose Green.  To his enemies, he was little more than quick death, an unseen end given in the name of Queen and Country.  
And yet, though he was all of that and more, he wasn’t what you’d call brilliant.  He wasn’t smart.  He lacked that indefinable edge of brainpower, the innate intellectual curiosity that sets apart truly learned men.  It didn’t make him less of a man—quite the opposite really—but it limited him.  What he accomplished, he accomplished through guts and strength and sheer determination.  He coupled his strength of will to the firepower of the British Army, and the results were spectacular.  That was enough to make him the Chief of the Special Section.  But it could never have made him the Head of the MI-6.  Nor could he, for example, have ever hoped to have served in Parliament or, as I do, as a professor at a top university.  My father was very good at doing what he did, as far as it went, and that as enough for him.  But it was not enough for me, though he’d never understood that--even on that last bloody day.
It’s bittersweet, remembering those times.  My father, still tall and proud, in full possession of his powers and prowess, years away from the wasting time, the tubes, the oxygen tent, and all the rest of it.  
It’s been like that since his funeral, my emotions swinging back and forth like a pendulum.  Up and back.  Good times and bad.  
I missed feeling reliably like myself.  At times, I could barely remember what being me felt like.

To read this story from the beginning, click on  keyword down below.

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