Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Restless Night

Dark. Stormy. Night. With a heavy sigh, the Duke turned away from the tall tower window. Every time the weather turned such, the peasants went berserk and somebody’s windmill burned to the ground. Last time it was Doctor Frankenstein’s, this time it could very well be his.

They were such superstitious fools, he thought, but not entirely without reason. After all, the unique ability of this area to generate frequent and powerful thunderstorms was legendary, and perfect for experiments requiring massive amounts of electrical energy. It was only natural that scientists of every stripe would be drawn to the region. The peasants called the scientists “mad” amongst themselves, but the Duke preferred the term “misunderstood”. As it applied to most of them, anyway. A few, were indeed, probably closer to madness than sanity. But that didn’t invalidate their scientific results, did it?

Crossing the room to his desk, the Duke sat down and lifted a snifter of fine brandy. Raising it to his nose, he looked over the rim of the crystal at his ygor, Bradley.

“So. Bradley, what’s the latest gossip?”

Bradley straightened as much as his hunched form would allow, and began, “Well, m’Lord, a new band of gypsy’s has moved into the area.”

The Duke’s eyebrow raised. “Another?” At Bradley’s nod, the Duke continued, “It seems that we have an abundance of Romani at the moment.”

Bradley nodded emphatically. “Yes m’Lord. A new travelling show visits each local village about every three days now. The villagers are sick of the gypsies, and the gypsies are irate at not being able to make a living. You can only use so much snake oil and vampire wards.”

“Quite so,” said the Duke. “I expect that supply and demand will eventually thin out the number of caravans criss-crossing the region.”

“Yes, m’Lord, but the villagers are already starting to take action. I’ve heard that some are directing the nomads to ‘more fertile opportunity,’ over closer to the Count’s castle.”

“Oh, well… I suppose Vlad will be happy for that, at least. What else for news?”

“Dr. Frankenstein has put out the word that he’s looking for a new ygor. Fritz is missing after the big fire and presumed dead.”

The Duke sipped, then smiled wryly, “I suppose you’ve applied for the opening?”

Bradley had the grace to look uncomfortable at the Duke’s insight. Looking down at the ground, he said, “no disrespect to you, m’Lord…”

“And none assumed, Bradley,” he smiled again, “I am fully aware that everyone wants to work for a winner, and barring that unfortunate ‘incident’, the Doctor is closer to success than the rest of us.”

And that, thought the Duke, was the downside of the situation. As much as he enjoyed the camaraderie and getting together to talk ‘shop’ with his neighbors, the concentration of scientific talent in the area made it difficult to obtain experimental materials. The Duke himself was stalled because of the shortage of viable cadavers from the local graveyards, and had recently turned down several candidates offered up by less-than-scrupulous villagers. ‘Abby Normal’ indeed!

But they all had their troubles. Last week the Baron was complaining that it was nigh impossible to obtain copper wire that was robust enough to withstand multiple lightning strikes, and without sufficient power your experiments were doomed from the start.

Even ygors were in short supply. Sure, you could always hire some half-witted village boy and spend years training him, but as soon as you had him to the point where he didn’t need constant supervision, he’d accept another job offer and you were right back where you started.

Standing again, the Duke shook off his darkening mood. One didn’t become a man of science by letting adversity dampen enthusiasm. In fact, challenges and setbacks added spice to the process, and made success all the sweeter.

Staring out into the storm again, the Duke could see a straggling mob of peasants bearing torches and pitchforks stumbling along a muddy road in the middle distance. From their direction, he could tell that he would be short one windmill by dawn.


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