The Baffled King
Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist

by llamajoy

William Twining sat cross-legged on the common room couch, engrossed in his book. As usual, no one else seemed to be studying: Isaac drew patterns of snowflakes on the fogged window panes, Sytry, propped on half a dozen pillows on the floor, was filing his nails.

Dantalion was not accounted for.

His whereabouts ought to have been of no consequence, obviously. No doubt he was outside, kicking a ball of some kind. Or consorting with the other houses' rowing teams. He certainly wouldn't be doing schoolwork, this close to holiday break.

None of this explained why William found himself distracted. He'd read the last paragraph in his book (medieval economics, or was it biology?) at least four times without absorbing a bit of it.

He tried again. "It is not for a king to work in the fields." (Medieval economics, then.) "A shepherd--"

A king may not till the fields himself, but the harvest is no less to him than it is to his people.

The thought was clear as crystal, though unbidden. William blinked, squinted at the page again. No one spoke; Isaac was lighting lamps around the common room, as the winter afternoon was lengthening into evening.

Pour the oil, light the lamp at the set of sun, at the dark beginning of the new day. Weave the branches, citron, palm, willow, myrtle. Wind the leaves and say the ancient prayers. The Lord of light descends upon each tabernacle, no matter how humble. Child of the poet-king, son by another man's wife, bring your heart to the altar. Give of yourself, House of Jacob, for burnt offerings are pleasing to the Lord.

He shook himself, shutting his book like a thunderclap, loud enough to make a startled Sytry dislodge a cushion or two.

Where the hell was this coming from?

Perhaps that was not the wisest choice of words, he thought too late, as suddenly Dantalion appeared in the doorway, face ruddy with cold, his eyes bright like icicle fire. For a long, strange moment, the room seemed to blur, the quaint dormitory furniture somehow spare and old and elegant, the lamps more like tallow candles, flickering with insistent flame.

As if from a great distance away, Dantalion was crossing the room, going to one knee before him, radiant and reverent, saying, "Chag same'ach, my king."

--And then Dantalion was hanging up his scarf on the corner rack, saying something sarcastic to Sytry, who returned in kind without even looking up from his manicure. Isaac bounded over to hear the latest tales of exploit of the house football team, and everything was so intensely ordinary that it made William's ears ring.

Just when he'd managed to convince himself that the whole weird episode must have been a dream (studying too hard, staying up too late, of course that would upset his neurological functions), Dantalion caught his eye, curious. "You're very quiet, William. Is everything all right in Jacob House?"

William dropped his textbook.


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