The bard, upheld, presented.
Gibby, The Moon King, shows little taste. Atop his throne he slumps, lachrymal, despondent. Narrative does him no favors as he offers no more than a glare to the bard.
The bard kneels. The chains around his wrists and neck are unnecessary.
Silence passes unforgotten, malleable. The air grows heavy and hard to breathe. Should suffocation be it let the asphyxiating–
The bard flinches. He musters courage, distinct and liquiform and fleeting, and deigns to look to his King.
There is hate in his eyes, gaunt and betrayed. Fear and hurt are alien emotions when in the King’s presence.
“Cabal, upheaval, in my court! To whom do you pay your dues?” Gibby leans forward. The wood of his throne’s armrests begin to creak as he squeezes.
Shame floods, a deluge of guilt, muddied and sullied with debris and meat, and the Bard’s voice is quiet.
“To you, pneumatic King,” he says. The taste of rehearsal is metallic. He cannot quell the tremble in his words.
“Explain the conspiracy of you and your compatriots!” Gibby yells.
“‘Twixt you assuming crown and the dissent of the people, bones to dust to flour.” he says. The room amplifies as his voice wanes in volume. “I acted of my own accord.”
Gibby settles back. “Of your own accord?” A moment of intense quiet seeps into skin, parasitic, diseased. A tremble runs through the throne room floor and the bard cannot figure if it his own or not.
“Bring in the confessors.” the King finally says. His gaze on the bard is leaden.
Three more prisoners are brought out. The bard knows not to look askance. He knows in full who they are, and to look to the door is a grave offense.
“In full confidence?” Gibby asks.
The bard doesn’t answer.
“Feed these three to the machinations.” Gibby sentences.
The bard’s shoulders quake in suppressed lacrimosa. Blood tastes foul and rotten.
“Why?” Gibby finally asks, when it is the two of them and nothing of the court remains.
“The people gnaw to nothing upon each other. They are unhappy, and yet you think the changing hands of money will solve this unhappiness.”
“It is not the money that is unhappy.” Dracula points out.
“You’d trade this- your namegivers, your titles, your friends for the sake of some proles?” Gibby’s voice, incredulous. The bard closes all six eyes and imagines the pink waters of earth.
There are more moments of silence. No longer will the King nor bard feel respite in these lulls.
“Strip him of name and title and brooch. Send him to earth to rot with my brother.”
The gavel is verbal and falls with sentence. The bard is pulled to his feet by the horn and led away.
The Tyrant slumps in his throne.
Time is unmistakably absent in the white sand beaches known as the afterlife. The moon and the sun hover in the sky opposite of each other, stationary as if simple set pieces on the backdrop of a posthumous play.
The bard sits on the sand, just far enough up the beach to keep his boots from getting wet by the spray. He stares (its hard for him to not stare, for he never blinks and in death has further few reasons to) at the little pile of balanced stones he had made. They are a nondescript grey, smoothed over by cool waters into imperfect ovals, and stand sentry on the beach. He is a lot like them, in this regard.
He had made sand castles before, in the image of his old home. But it makes him too sad now.
He turns his gaze heavensward at the thought. The moon shines back, a soft white glow. It might not even be the same moon as the one from earth. Everything here is pastel, sun-bleached, washed out.
Maybe it’s because he’s dead that the rich purple has faded from his clothes. Maybe it’s because he is a traitor. Either way, he too is bleached, a mockery of himself in silver tones. A facsimile of his former self.
Better down here and dead than alive and aloft, he thinks to himself. It is little comfort, and sick permeates his metal flesh.
He thinks too about how times were better once, even up there. Where had a name, a warm bed, a warmer meal, a kind hand and a sense of purpose.
(The dead aren’t supposed to be able to feel, but even sunbathing has him nothing but cold.)
He dwells on those fond memories…
A barrage of two royal children tumble around his feet, barely taller than his knees. The sound of their delighted laughter fills the room and Dracula bends down. Without a mouth he expresses his smiles in other ways, his eyes crinkling as he hugs them both.
“Dracula! A verse, if you will!” Gibby says. He is the older of the two brothers, louder than the younger Wayne. He's smiling, all teeth, expectant.
They want this old bard to recite? Then recite he will.
“Centrifuged points of universal accusations bleed into slurry of incredulous equivocations, called starsong. Royal heirs alight aboud, converge and conspire towards separate but similar goals. Thus here we stand.”
They don’t understand him. They hardly ever do, but Dracula doesn’t know how to talk in ways that aren’t poetry. The conversations between the bard and the princes are full of misunderstanding and laughter.
He watches the heirs when when the Queen has to rule. He had been once her favorite minstrel, so talented in his wordsmithing she had given him his name and his title- Dracula the Rhapsodist. But she bore children, and his poems had slowly turned into children’s songs half-forgotten. Not that he minds the shift- a river's meander eventually splits, forming a horseshoe lake as the river forges a new path.
He oversees their studies. He tells them stories and Iliads. He minds their play and hangs up the drawings they give him in his quarters. He breaks up their fights.
“Wayne started it!” Gibby protests. His younger brother sticks a tongue out at him. Both are covered in marks and bruises, and Wayne is nursing a black eye.
“Let’s calm down,” says Dracula, and bends down to pick up the princes. They relent and sit in his arms while he carries them off for juice boxes and hopefully a nap. If anything, he needs one himself.
Gibby is crowned King after mother dies. He never grows taller than Dracula, who becomes his unofficial steward. Bitterness turns to neglectful apathy and Dracula watches his king lean against his vital statues and whisper sweet nothings to the cold moonstone.
His proclamations grow accusatory, his decrees stricter. The people protest to no avail, the court tidally locked into a standoff of silence. No one wants to speak poorly of their king. He banishes his younger brother, sends him to rot on earth.
Dracula does what he can.
He promotes servants, sneaks funds, delays acts of cruelty, confides in the other palace workers. He reads the letters sent in by the people, writes back comforting words when he finds them.
When Gibby finds out he tried to return to the moon after his exile, Dracula doesn’t regret helping, only that he couldn’t help more. The King’s apathy is replaced, if only for a moment, with rage. Dracula sits in silence and takes the brunt of fury. This is a punishment he will bear alone.
The bard runs his fingers through the white sand. The memory of his impromptu execution is not something he cares to relive.
If what he felt in life he called helplessness, he has no word for what he feels now. Death, while a beautiful beach of pink waters and stationary skies, is a land of powerlessness. With no name, no title, there is nothing he can do.
Perhaps he can.
He stands, brushes the sand from his cloak, and speaks aloud:
A sentimental wheel partially indulges the skeletons.
The people consider with a spirit.
It is a mandible amidst an offending mirror.
It is a vacuum…
Meanwhile Gibby, King of the Moon,
Smears an engine
Despite his prison fate.
Thus your story begins.