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To be King
He laughed loudly at a joke only he had heard. The room hushed as various members of the king’s court turned to stare open mouthed at him.
“Excuse me,” he mumbled, and hastened out of the room. Curse those fools, with their staring, and their gossip, he thought furiously. They had no idea what he was going through.
Slipping around a serving maid, the man opened the French doors that led out into the duke's garden. A small group of wealthy dressed ladies erupted into giggles as he passed, their powered faces showing no real joy at all. The man shook his head in disgust and left the main section to walk along a seldom trodden path framed by trees.
It was quiet here, with no one in earshot. Most of the guest stayed inside of the magnificent manor, or quite close to it, no where near the greenhouses that were just in view. Still, the man wiped his brow nervously as he checked for wayward passerby. Assured of no potential eavesdroppers, the man called out:
“Where are you now, you cursed spirit?”
A shimmer appeared right behind the man, causing him to wince as the chill that accompanied it gently wrapped around his shoulders. Stepping away from the shimmer, he called, “None of that, now, show up proper like, so I can see you.”
“But of course, my lord.” The shimmer had condensed to show a girl of perhaps twelve or thirteen. She was clothed in a long, white nightgown that was a shade lighter then her own ghostly pallor. Her long, wavy hair might have been a deep brown once, but snow was as white as snow. “Why ever would I want to inconvenience you?”
“Don't play games with me,” the man growled. “I, for one, am sick of it.”
“Sick of what? Lord Donovan, I have done nothing wrong.”
“Oh, really?” Donovan's pudgy face turned red. “The question is, what have I done wrong to deserve such an irritating ghost following me around?”
The ghost smiled wanly, and drifted to the ground to perch on a log. “Irritating?” she asked politely, as if she had no want for an answer.
“Yes, irritating!” The lord was quickly working himself into a fit. His face began to turn blue as he hopped furiously up and down. “Moving things from where I put them (here the ghost giggled, but Donovan went on), intimating my friends voices to ruse them into fights, and now making jokes when I am trying to speak to important friends!”
“It is not my fault that you laughed.” The ghost examined an ancient birdbath, covered in images of sparrows and the like.
“You never had to make the joke!”
“But the party was so boring,” the ghost complained. Her petite form floated up into the air, so she could lay down and still be at eye level. “Can you not attend a fun party for once instead of these ones where everyone smiles at the faces and plots behind the backs?”
“It was interesting for me!” Donovan shouted, then froze as the group of ladies from before drifted pass, eyes wide. In his anger, the lord had forgotten to keep an eye on passerby. “Ladies, ladies,” he said quickly, bowing shortly. “Great night, just getting some of our good London air, eh?” The ladies hurried pass, glancing back at the squat man with the large smile. What ever would their men think of this strange man? They thought to themselves, and hurried off back to the party to inform their husbands of the lord.
After throwing one last smile at the ladies' retreating backs, Donovan exhaled and pulled out his ever-ready handkerchief from his pocket.
“Great,” the ghost said. “Now they will go twitter off to their husbands to tell of the nut job they found wandering the grounds.”
“How would you know that?” the lord asked, insulted.
The ghost rolled her eyes. “I see into the minds and hearts of men,” she said in a bored voice. “And unfortunately, that includes your woman, too.”
“Nonsense! I'm sure they were quite charmed by me.” Donovan gave what he was sure to be a quite charming smile (the ghost gagged), and stuffed his handkerchief back into his pocket. “Now, back to the party with me!” He strutted down the path, the ghost following reluctantly.
“Why?” she wined. “What there could possibly interest you?”
The man stopped quickly (causing the ghost to fly up quickly before landing in a crumpled heap), and glanced around secretively. “ I will get into the King's good graces and convince him to change the succession laws. Then I, little spirit, am going to become King!” he whispered excitedly, obviously expecting a dramatic effect.
The ghost howled: a chilling sound for anyone that could hear it. “You?” she exclaimed scornfully. “With such a flawless plan, of course you will!” She snorted. “That stick is better fit for King! It has a better plan!” She indicated a moldy stick on the ground, then continued her laughter.
“Silence!” the lord hissed, glancing around. “Someone might hear you!”
“Like who? You?” The ghost laughed again. “You are the only one I let see me, or hear me.”
“Why?” Donovan moaned, putting his head in his hands. “Why me?”
“Because, my lord.” The ghost drifted closer, speaking softly now. “I am a young ghost, therefore bound to help a mortal accomplish what he wants. The old ghosts, the ones that fail, chose the mortal, not me,” she added. “I had hoped you would be easy, so I could just, you know, vanish!” She snapped her fingers, then leaned in closer. “Vanish, and go to where all ghosts go when they are done.”
“Where is that?” Donovan asked, almost hypnotized by her voice.
The ghost spun around, and swayed her hips as she walked. “It depends!” she called back. “Were you good? Or were you bad?” She giggled, and sprang up into the air. Her figure vanished, and Lord Donovan craned his neck back to try to see where the spirit went.
“So does that mean you'll help me become King?” he shouted up at the stars.
“There's only one way.” The lord yelped and turned around to see the young girl seated on a stone bench. “But you won't like it.” She got up, gazing at his face. “No, not a coward like you.”
Donovan reddened. “What ever it takes!” he promised.
The ghost smiled; but the man did not like the smile very much. “What are you planning?” he asked nervously.
“I will see you inside,” the spirit said, and shimmered out of view.
“My good man, will you bid or not?” Lord Donovan glanced up from his cards to see the other men looking at him impatiently.
“Oh, oh, yes. Sorry.” The lord pushed some coins into the center of the table and glanced around. He had come back to the party and joined a card game with a couple other lords and dukes. But he was unable to concentrate, looking around at what everyone else was doing. He had not seen his ghost since she left him in the garden, and was now more nervous then ever.
“Treval raised the amount a few turns back, Donovan.” Treval nodded, and the lord glanced around the table in confusion.
“Oh, he did, did he?” he asked, distracted.
The others glanced around at each other in annoyance. They had no idea what had gotten into the man tonight, but their wives had noticed as well.
“Donovan,” Treval asked. “My wife came to me with a most interesting story tonight. Any idea what it was about?”
“No idea, no idea,” Donovan said weakly, wringing out his handkerchief under the table.
“She said that she had seen a man mumbling to a tree! Isn't that strange?”
“Quite, quite,” Donovan agreed. “Very strange, very strange.” In spite of his great dream, the man, in fact, was a pushover. The men grinned at each other. From Donovan's reaction, it was quite clear he was their man.
He was saved from further questioning when the first man made a strange sound and collapsed to the floor. The man next to him jumped up and bent over, putting him out of sight.
“He's dead,” the man said, looking up at the others with fear in his face. All the blood drained from Donovan's face, and he could see the other men were pale as well.
“He was fine a second ago-”
“Healthy as a horse, he was-”
“Sound the alarm,” Treval ordered, standing up. But before he could do a thing, he collapsed.
Another man down! And then another! Death spread across the room like wildfire, leaving no one in it's path.
Donovan stood untouched in the middle of it all. The lord was shaking, dreading the second Death would realized he still stood.
“Ahgg-” A voice sounded from behind him. Donovan spun to see Treval stand up, shaking his head.
“Oh, good, Treval!” Donovan exclaimed, relived. Then he froze. Trevel's body lay at the feet of the thing that just stood up. And the pale figure that stood before him was floating...
Donovan jerked back to glance around the room. From every body rose a ghost, some moaning, some glancing around in confusion. But all saw Donovan, and recognition lit up their eyes. “Him?” they asked each other. But it was him! The one they were meant to serve! “Him!” they shouted and started moving forward, towards the frightened man.
“No, no, I'm not who you want!” he shouted desperately, but then he saw his ghost.
She floated up in front of all the ghosts and lifted her arms in the air. “Hail!” she crowed, smiling savagely. “Hail, King of Ghosts!” and vanished.