When we returned to Kew Palace from our successful excursion against the banshee, we saw that the three doctors, Greville, and several of the guards had become overwhelmed with excitement at our arrival. Even the taciturn Sir George broke into a broad smile and a joyful trot to greet us. Seeing a man that corpulent move as he did was an inspiring sight.
“We had that monstrous death cry from over the horizon. The banshee is dead, yes?” Sir Lucas asked, his gentle little face looking for permission to join the sense of triumph.
“I believe so,” I replied, waving the cudgel toward him. “I believe so.”
‘Oh thank God!” Sir Lucas proudly declared, sending his short arms up in a salute to the heavens.
Warren walked forward across the cobblestone path in front of the palace, clicking his cane as he did. I saw from him a manner that I had not yet observed: one of profound humility.
“I suppose I owe you my thanks and my apologies, Doctor Willis,” Warren said.
“I am owed nothing, Doctor Warren,” I smiled in return. “All glory is to God and the saints who protect us.”
He silently nodded.
“Were it a medical matter, I would see that you are inducted into the Royal College of Physicians,” Sir George said in his haughty voice. “We will definitely ensure you are given an appropriate honor for this service.”
“I seek no honor for myself, Sir—”
“Awards of honors aren’t only for oneself!” Sir George scolded me. “They are examples to the kingdom!”
I was eager to change the subject from self-congratulatory flummery to something more urgent.
“I only hope that now we can properly focus on His Majesty’s care. It is far from guaranteed that he will recover even with this burdensome menace removed,” I said grimly. “He had great traumas inflicted upon him. Men do not easily cure themselves from those wounds.”
“Well, I’m sure that such eminent physicians are ourselves can address that in due time,” Sir George chirped. “In the meantime, I think we could all do with some rest. Hopefully there will be nothing more to disturb our night.”
That wish rang hollow for me. I waited to hear that the guards had retrieved all of the corpses of those we had used as bait. They had all died of natural causes that evening and we sent them back to London for burial. I wondered, time and again, where the two soldiers who had run off to from the first encounter with the banshee and Octavius’ ghost. It was also far from clear to me if we had managed to free Octavius’ spirit from the earth or not. Eventually, I managed to become lost enough in my thoughts that I fell asleep.
That night, my dreams were marred by that same strange red presence that I had seen twice before. The crimson blur took on something eerily similar and yet dissimilar from a human form. A shadow fell across much of its head, obscuring my vision. I kept approaching it to try to gain a better view, but it ever turned away. When at last I was fatigued, I looked away to see if there were any other strange phenomena around the abyssal mire around me.
Its hand fell upon my head. I saw nothing of its face except for a sickly, twisted maw that opened unnaturally wide.
“Willllllllissssssssss….” a sepulchral hiss echoed out from the maw.
It lunged for me with a horrid screech.
At that moment, I jolted awake, drenched in sweat and disoriented. I must have sat up in my bed, wide awake, for a full two hours after that. My heart raced continuously. Eventually, once my nerves had settled, I summoned the courage to sleep again, dismissing what I had dreamed as a product of trauma.
The following morning, I decided to take an inventory of His Majesty’s state of mind in the aftermath of our victory over the banshee. The King was still deeply demented, which was much as I had anticipated. I had not shared the optimism of Sir George and Sir Lucas, who had presumed that the King would rapidly improve without the malign influence of the banshee’s magic.
“You know that London used to be part of France?” the King asked me during one of our sessions that day. “Yes, it was down right next to Paris, just down the road from Berlin and Rome.”
“I am afraid that none of that is true, Your Majesty,” I corrected him.
“How dare you! I’m the King of England!”
“That much is true,” I said with a smile. “And where are we now?”
“Some pit of Hell that you stuck me in!” he spat, wriggling in his restraining chair. “And get me out of this damn thing!”
I folded my hands and looked into his wild and unfocused eyes.
“Calm yourself, Your Majesty,” I insisted.
“I tell, I am not told,” he riposted, sticking his tongue out at me like a disobedient child.
“Your Majesty’s reign is subject to Parliament,” I replied. “If you do not behave yourself, they can make sure you never tell anyone anything ever again.”
“Nonsense! I’ll have them all hanged!”
“No, no you will not,” I sighed.
It went on like that for some time until it was time for His Majesty to eat his soup for lunch. We all stood around him in plain black clothes to provide a more austere setting. We also chose an interior room that had comparatively little light to animate the King’s spirits. He politely ate his soup without any serious difficulty, though some of it dripped into his beard. The King became quite annoyed regarding how long it took until Greville stepped forward to dab his beard with a napkin.
I led the others in applauding His Majesty for properly conducting himself. It seemed to the others to be such a small triumph, but I assured them that it was necessary to rebuild the King’s proper sense of self. I am not sure that any of them understood just how damaged he had become. Doctors such as those three would typically send their lunatics off to “mad doctors”, such as myself, and never give their patients a moment’s thought after that.
In the afternoon and early evening, I took to encouraging His Majesty to draw as I had heard from Greville that the King found art a productive channel for his emotions in more ordinary times. I sat and watched him acquit himself very well with an obsessive focus on his craft. A part of me worried that he would produce some kind of mortifying monstrosity, like the banshee or his son’s tortured spirit, but instead his first caricature was only a crude portrait of me. I took some offense at how he depicted my face, far chubbier and more misshapen than it truly is, but this seemed to me a harmless diversion.
Later that evening we tried to focus His Majesty on reading from some of his favorite books, including a compendium of Shakespeare. As it happened, he was not yet tranquil enough for that and he ripped one of the books to pieces, requiring him to be confined to the restraining chair. I resolved to try that again the following day.
Because His Majesty continued to mutter and speak streams of seamless nonsense throughout the night, I elected to remain near him to observe on which matters his mind seemed most focused. He mentioned time and again how he missed the Queen, how the Prime Minister was a shadow of his father, that Papism should be eradicated as opposed to tolerated, and then he started harping on the loss of the former colonies.
“Write a letter to the colonies. Tell them I forgive them and I’ll have them back. They can even have a few of my sons if they want them. I’ll give them nice bushes of roses and…” His Majesty spoke in such a rapid pace I could not even manage to write a down a tenth of what he said.
At one point he started singing “God Save the King”, though with some oddly twisted lyrics, including replacing “Happy and Glorious” with “Flappy and Laborious.”
I need not belabor the point that attempting to match wits with a lunatic is exhausting and at some juncture I fell asleep upright in my own chair.
That sleep did not last long however.
"Dim ond wedi dechrau,” His Majesty mumbled, jolting me awake.
I looked in front of me and to my sides. There was nothing there. I wondered if it had just been a dream that had spilled into my waking moments. I realized something odd had happened, though. The restraining chair was empty.
I stood, confused as to how that could have happened. His restraints had been thorough. I’d seen to that myself.
"DIM OND WEDI DECHRAU!”
The King’s voice came from just behind me and I turned to see two hands emerge from the shadows. They pushed me down to the floor. I hit the wood planks hard, my bones aching upon impact. The King then stepped forward into the pale blue moonlight of that evening, his face only just outlined. He smiled with a twisted smirk and his eyes flashed with an emerald green sheen.
As I would later learn, that phrase translated to English meant “It’s just begun!”