Divine Blood and Common Medicine
I cannot recall the precise year of these events, but chronology is a mere nicety to men of my class. Rumour took under its wing tales of my unnatural expertise and flew them direct to the ear of the king, who summoned me at his pleasure,- which is to say, forthwith. I was received by his courtiers and presented with utmost haste, and the king appeared very much disturbed when he spoke with me. He cut a grand figure, and befit his station well, his beard massive and commanding, his arms swollen with the musculature given by years of grim battle and merciless hammering of skulls, his voice sonorous with the dignity of Divine Office.
"Alchemist," he said, "Your talents are spoken for by those who claim to know of what they speak. We shall see. For we require your employment of these talents in order to effect the revival of our only daughter."
I bowed my head, directing my speech to the floor as it pleased the king. "My lord, I shall make all efforts as I deem judicious. With humility, I pray you to inform your loyal subject what ails her divine personage."
The king swelled his chest to put thunder in his voice. "It is not known what ails her. Our former court physicians brought forth many theories, all subsequently brought down in disgrace - brought down, specifically, in the form of heads, which even now adorn the walls of our Trophy Tomb."
"Are you suggesting, my lord, that my failure in the endeavor should result in a similar honor being bestowed upon my head?"
"Indeed, yours is a swift mind, alchemist. In the wisdom of our years, we have discovered that motivation most energizing to the productive energies of our subject peoples - life itself. You may keep your life only shall you keep your pledge to serve at the command of your king. Shall you fail, then look yonder for an intimation of your fate."
I looked in the direction indicated by his bejewelled finger. The royal guards posted by an ornate doubled door hinged it inward to reveal a room, the walls of which displayed on decorative plaques severed heads by the hundred. These heads chronicled the doings of many years, for in their stages of decay they ranged from dry and fleshless skulls to twitching specimens clearly procured only moments before. I took note that the walls of that Trophy Tomb were large, and there was space aplenty for further decoration.
I turned back toward the king, keeping my head bowed most respectfully. "My lord, I am confident that I shall live a long and useful life in the service of my king."
"That shall be determined in due course, alchemist. To the chamber of the princess shall you follow us, and there we will see what cure one so well bespoke may effect."
"Obediently and humbly, my lord, the arts of which I am the master require strict conditions, one of which being that I must enforce a vow of secrecy, even protecting those mysterious arts from the divine eyeballs of my king."
The king gasped in precisely the manner I expected, and said, "You expect that you shall be permitted unchaperoned entry into the chambers of our princess?"
"Shall I effect the cure that is sought, then yes, my lord, you have stated the truth as befits your divinity." The king pondered on it, then with a wrathful sigh and a contemptuous flip of the wrist bade a nearby underling to guide me to the royal chambers.
For a while, I stood and gazed upon the figure of the princess: she lay delicately upon her satin pillows, beneath her lace coverlets, all rosy cheeks, luxuriant flowing locks billowed beneath a porcelain skull, thin transparent lips, eyes gently shut. Her breast heaved slowly, almost imperceptibly. She lay in deep coma, and according to my guide, had lain thus for a year and a day. I removed the coverlets, as well as her sleeping-dress, so that she lay unencumbered upon the bed, easily accessible to my proddings and investigations. I then proceeded upon a methodical examination of her body and its mechanisms. I lay my ear close upon her stomach to hear the workings therein, and also upon her heart and lungs and womb. I discovered that the problem lay in the heart: the organ was failing to circulate properly the emotions which are so essential in the governance of a female body, instead keeping contained within itself every ounce of what it did produce. Thus her body languished, its enemy a jealous heart.
I summoned my assistant and instructed him to fetch me from my laboratory a tarantula spider, which I had been intending for use in an experiment I had in mind - for the sake of my king, I was willing to forsake this most fascinating experiment.
The tarantula spider is a large and hairy beast. It possesses eight legs, which it manipulates to complex effect. It has black beads for eyes, and, most crucially, sharp pincers and mandibles, with which to suck the life from its prey. In this case, these implements would be utilized to suck the closely guarded emotions from out the miserly heart of the princess, and then to redistribute them among the deprived reaches of her anatomy. I reached into the mind of the spider and arranged its instincts in accordance with this design. Then I spread apart the king's daughter's nether lips and allowed the tarantula to crawl within, the map to her heart now inscribed in its tiny, but adequate to the purpose, brain. In a desperate defense, her heart directed her legs to close, to deny me access, but she was malnourished and weak, and it was but a simple matter to keep them pried apart: soon the tarantula began its journey.
Several hours passed before the tarantula spider managed to crawl to the princess's heart. In open space, the tarantula might have completed the journey in seconds, but the interior of a woman's body is far from being open, indeed is crammed to the chock with organs and fibers and spindles and vessels to transmit the blood and various other life liquids: thus the journey of the tarantula spider was a long and exhausting one. I monitored its progress by the bulge which its mass effected against the ventral surface of her skin. This appeared on cursory examination to be a static, unsightly lump, its progress so very gradual, but protracted observation confirmed the spider's advance. Eventually, the destination was attained, and the tarantula commenced upon its program.
In my mind I saw the actions of that furry creature. First, it plunged its mandibular array into the meat of the rebellious organ. Then, satisfied of its firm grip, the spider sucked the vital juices from that heart until it was but a shriveled husk of tissue, all its components transferred into the body of the tarantula. Now, the tarantula would resume the duties of the heart, meting generously that over which its predecessor had been so stingy.