My great great uncle was a warder at an asylum
in Torval (maybe he was my great great great uncle -- it was
quite a long time ago), and this is the story that has been
passed down in my family from his generation to mine. Perhaps
it is purely apocryphal, but when I was told it, it was whispered
in such a way that it was meant to be taken seriously. Not
having any children of my own to whisper to, and being in
need of some gold, I have elected to publish my story.
The asylum my great great uncle worked in
was apparently very posh. Only the right class of lunatics
were admitted. Eccentric dukes, mad baronesses, touched lords,
and daft ladies filled the asylums tapestried and gilded halls.
Still, it was a time of great excitement when the rumor began
that the unhinged Emperor of Tamriel, Pelagius III, was transferring
there from a resort in Valenwood. When the rumor became a
reality, the asylum went into nice, calm, restive chaos. Pelagius
was given an entire wing of the asylum for his own use, for,
though he was madder than a jackal, he was still His Terrible
Majesty, the Emperor of Tamriel.
The Emperor was remarkably well behaved, my
great great uncle supposedly asserted. Of course, he did not
have to face the commoners who came on all sorts of pretenses
to gawk at their overlord, the loon. When one of the warders
(not, I have been assured, my uncle) forgot himself and let
His Terrible Majesty know that people had been there to see
him, the Emperor grew very excited. He made up his mind right
there and then to have a ball. A huge party with musicians,
dancing, and dinner, right at the lunatic asylum. Or precisely,
in his wing of the asylum.
Rumors of the Emperor's interest in holding
a ball spread throughout Torval and eventually it reached
the ears of the Emperess Regent Katariah, Pelagius' dear wife,
in the Imperial City. Eager to make her husband happy, she
sent a caravan laden with gold to the asylum so a ball might
be held befitting the Imperial dignity.
The Emperor picked a date for the ball, and
preparations began immediately. The old asylum walls were
beautifully decorated, but needed cleaning. A pit had to be
constructed to house the orchestra; servants for cooking and
serving the food had to be hired; gold and ebony candelebras
and matching chandeliers were ordered; the old rugs were destroyed,
and new rugs embroidered with gems were weaved; lists of guests
had to be compiled, reconsidered and recompiled. The Emperor
knew that the guest list had to be very exclusive, and he
relied on his advisors to tell him who was alive, who was
dead, and who was imaginary.
The party was set to begin at nine o'clock.
At six, the hairdresser he had hired from Torval finished
his Imperial coiffure. At seven, he was fully dressed in the
robes he had ordered for the ball: voluminous black silk and
piled velvet crusted with red diamonds. At eight, he walked
down the newly reconstructed staircase to supervise the final
preparations -- the lighting of the candles, the opening of
the wine, the murder of the first course. At nine o'clock,
he took his seat at the facsimile throne he had ordered and
awaited the first guests.
At nine thirty, his advisor, seeing the royal
eyes beginning to glaze over with madness, said, "Your
Terrible Majesty surely knows that it is not fashionable to
arrive at any ball for at least an hour after the desired
The Emperor just stared.
At ten thirty, the Emperor called for some
food and wine, and sat at his throne, looking at the open
door, eatting. Thirty minutes later, he ordered the orchestra
to begin playing. For the next three hours, they played gaily
for the empty, candlelit ballroom.
At one o'clock, the Emperor announced his
intention to retire for the evening. My uncle was one of the
warders who assisted His Terrible Majesty up the staircase.
Halfway to his room, Pelagius threw himself on the floor in
a hysteria, screaming and laughing, ordering more wine (my
mother was good at this part of the story, rolling her eyes
and shreiking, "More wine! More wine! Wine!"), and,
in short, imagining that he was possessed by all the revellers
at his party that never was.
Two days later, he was still not better. He
had cut himself and those who tried to grapple him horribly
with the red diamonds of his robe. Eventually it was decided
that the Torval asylum was not equipped to deal with a lunatic
of his severity, and he was sent to a more secure location
in Black Marsh. It was only three months later, my uncle heard
that the Emperor had died.
One of my uncle's duties was to clear out
the personal property of the inmates after their death. Being
primarily landed nobility, the personal property was often
quite extensive. Several years after the asylum ball, my uncle
was called to clear out the apartment of a duchess whose chief
eccentricity was a propensity to pilfer. Kleptomania, I believe
it's called. Locked away in a secret door in her desk, protected
by a trap armed with a barbed needle, was a variety of jewels,
piles of gold, and a five large stacks of beautifully engraved
invitations signed in the Emperor's childlike handwriting.
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