Prologue: To sleep, perchance to dream
If one could live in dreams, he would force his body into an artificial coma. Life and living bored him. After so many years, he could feel some mild amusement for his fellow men. Whether they cared for him as parents, or whether they cursed for his death, loving in return and hating in return took too much effort. Effort he had plenty to spare but what worth was it, when he gained nothing from the success of any endeavour?
It was better to sleep some more. Better yet, if the pillows he put his head on were soft and the blankets he covered himself with were warm. Even better, if none would disturb his sleep and no responsibilities were required of him. He couldn’t remember when he became a hedonist, but he had never looked back henceforth.
He used to be more righteous. Full of bright, hopeful things for his lives, any and all of them. His chest would clench in vindication at justice done and vengeance taken. His heart would beat in sympathy at the suffering of his hosts and the misfortune of those kind.
He did no such things now. Now he would do his duty, would fulfill his promise and nothing more. Not a wisp of extra effort beyond the maximization of his comfort.
Or at least, he was on his way to doing no such things. Pity, after all, required no effort.
He reached the edge of the cliff. In this life, he had been hated. In this life, he had been feared. What a tiring life it had been. Perhaps, he would be able to sleep more next time.
The rebels had been crushed both times, as required by his host. The fact that his host hadn’t thought to ask for him to live past that wasn’t his fault now, was it?
As he made his way over the ledge, he heard steps behind him. The Queen stood there, watching as her tyrant of a husband prepared to fall to his death.
He hadn’t paid much attention to her before. Had even thought that they mutually wished to stay as far from each other as possible.
“You are not him, are you?”
Surprised, he looked at her more carefully. Her beauty was one that he rarely saw: of fire, of pride, of dominion. But her eyes, they were soft, they were longing.
It hadn’t been the first time someone had discovered him, so he had learned that the best response was silence. She smiled, eyes still soft. He had thought they had an agreement of mutual avoidance. Perhaps, he was wrong. Perhaps, she had loved the man before him. His host, for all his faults, was quite attractive. He resisted the urge to sigh. He had thought her smarter. He turned his back to her. A pity.
As he fell, he thought he heard whispers. The Queen’s voice laughed in his ears.
“Wait for me.”
He slept. Perhaps, this time, he would dream.