The King slowly stepped toward me, his hands bearing a brass candleholder that I can only imagine he meant to use to bludgeon me.
“Your Majesty, stop this at once!” I commanded as I dragged myself across the floor to put more distance between us.
“NOOO!” he growled like a beast. The voice was not his own. It was far deeper than his ordinary voice and also sounded as though it was much farther away.
I began uttering the Lord’s Prayer again as I searched in vain to find a weapon. I realized that I had left Saint Augustine’s cudgel in another room far away. There was nothing I could use and His Majesty was considerably larger than me.
“Prayers? That’s all you have?” his twisted and rumbling voice mocked me.
At that moment, my son John entered the room and drew the King’s attention. John did not take any chances. He lifted the chair that I had been sitting in throughout most of the night and brought it down on the King’s head and neck. It cracked to pieces and the King fell to the ground, certainly injured, but just as certainly alive.
“John, my boy! Well done!” I cried out rapturously as I regained my footing.
“I just hit the King…” he said despondently.
“And it was necessary,” I applauded him. “Whatever is controlling his mind, it is not the King’s own thoughts, even his deluded ones.”
“I thought we won,” John mumbled. “I thought it was over.”
I sighed and looked at the King, who was breathing shallowly after losing consciousness.
“No, John,” I sighed. “It was never to be as easy as that.”
That morning, when the others were awake, we met in the interior dining room where I discussed the events of the previous night. John confirmed those events for me, as did Greville, who had heard His Majesty mumbling in Welsh again in the early morning hours. Despair set in around the room with Sir George’s copious jowls drooping mournfully.
“Then what do we do?” Sir George lamented.
“If I am honest, I was never convinced that the banshee was the root of this problem,” I said. “I fear that there is fouler magic at work and it is more distant. An obvious conclusion is that if His Majesty is being manipulated via some manner of curse that causes him to speak Welsh, the origin must be in Wales.”
Warren grumbled under his breath while all of the others simply looked down at their hands or at the tastefully appointed dining room table.
“Wales,” Warren growled. “Even if that is true, and I am not yet certain of that, it’s not as though Wales is some small London borough. It’s a sprawling land. Well more than half a million people and many villages and towns spread from Swansea to Cardiff.”
“I am well-aware Doctor Warren,” I acknowledged. “There must be some way of isolating where it might be. Rumors. Gossip. Even local legend if we can find someone who knows it.”
Greville coughed to gain our attention.
“Mr. Pitt is visiting today. Being a politician, perhaps he had some information? Politicians do naught but gossip and spread rumors,” Greville offered.
“The Prime Minister? Here today?” Thomas asked, laughing as he did. “Oh, that’s just great. Explaining to him we’ve done bollocks up until now will be easy.”
“Wash your tongue, boy,” I scolded him.
“Sorry, father,” Thomas sighed with an indolent shrug.
Sir Lucas brightened up, adjusting his glasses excitedly.
“I’m friends with some doctors in Wales. One in Cardiff. One up in Clwyd somewhere as well, oh yes,” he chirped, his voice quivering in a combination of anxiety and glee. “I could write to them to learn what they know. It may be something! I think so, anyway!”
“You may as well, Sir Lucas,” I grumbled. “Anything that can help us now is worthy of consideration.”
When the Prime Minister visited, his first insistence was to meet with the King before we could tell him anything else. Greville facilitated the meeting while everyone else was kept in a nearby study where Mr. Pitt could consult us afterwards. I took from this the obvious suggestion that the Prime Minister did not wholly trust our vague daily bulletins. After about an hour, the doors to our cramp study opened and Mr. Pitt stepped in with his black winter coat, his face in a deep scowl.
“I have just spent an hour speaking with His Majesty and I am unconvinced that you gentlemen have done anything to improve his condition,” he declared in a voice that was far more polite than I would have imagined possible for such words. “Well?”
“Prime Minister, if I may, I don’t think an untrained observation such as the one you are giving the King is properly reflective of—”
“Medical expertise?” the Prime Minister interjected, the faintest of smirks coming across his face. “I am sorry, Sir George, but you well know that my view is that this is not simply a medical matter. Doctor Willis, I summoned you to care for His Majesty precisely because you have deal with what I have believed to be the root cause. What do you have on that?”
I stood from my chair and straightened my frumpy coat as best I could.
“We did discover a banshee in the nearby gardens, and, with great difficulty, we dispatched it. It had certainly antagonized His Majesty. There is no question there,” I said firmly. “We lost some men to it and a spirit we believe was under its influence. Once it was destroyed, there was a vain hope that perhaps this would bring an end to this unfortunate episode, but His Majesty’s behaviour last night and earlier this morning indicates that he remains under an otherworldly influence.”
“Have any of you gentlemen a notion of where that might be?” Pitt inquired, his hostility not yet abated.
Robert stood and pointed a finger skyward to gain the Prime Minister’s attention.
“We believe that this otherworldly influence my father speaks of is of Welsh provenance,” Robert explained with suffocating pomposity. “His Majesty is speaking Welsh and doesn’t know Welsh. The banshee spoke Welsh and seemed to be more of a cyhyraeth, a Welsh analog for a banshee, which is more of an Irish Celtic tradition as opposed to a Welsh Celtic tradition.”
“The only thing I understood of what you just said is that this is a Welsh problem,” Mr. Pitt said humorlessly.
“We had wondered if, through the apparatus of government, that any peculiar stories, rumors, or reports had come from Wales lately?” I asked.
“Wales is eternally peculiar, Doctor Willis,” Mr. Pitt answered, eyebrows raised in condescension. “But there have been an unusual number of such customary peculiarities. I will return to my study in London and provide you gentlemen with what I can.”
“We would be most grateful if—” I started, but Pitt interjected.
“Just remember, all of you, that the survival of the government depends on His Majesty’s swift recovery,” he declared theatrically, as though he was addressing the House of Commons. “Anarchic forces love the uncertainty that the King’s malady provides. They feed off it. And it is not merely the lowly forces of Mr. Charles James Fox and his friends in Parliament. Far worse men will follow. We need His Majesty to stave them off. Never forget that.”
He left around 1:30 in the afternoon, leaving us largely to wait for what information he could provide. I did not care for our helplessness and prodded the other doctors to try to extract some manner of information out of His Majesty just as we had before when locating the banshee. Alas, even several hours of cupping later, the King offered us nothing. I decided to order an end to that torturous treatment of His Majesty and instead focus our efforts predominantly upon treating his madness when possible.