(Hard, 2pts): use a Machiavelli quote
(Easy, 1pt): incorporate ‘tabula rasa’
“He’s not here!” Maggie said, as she came storming back into the dark paneled library. Her frizzy red hair looked even wilder than usual. “I’ve searched this place from top to bottom. Father is not here.”
“You’re overreacting,” Leander said, never looking up from his laptop. He sounded bored.
“I am not overreacting! I’m telling you, he’s not here.”
Nathaniel looked at his watch. “It’s not the first time he’s done this to us, Mags. If we leave now, we should be able to catch the next flight out.”
“You can’t be serious!” Maggie growled. “Leander, tell Nathaniel-”
“Don’t do it!” Nikos warned.
“I wasn’t about to say anything.” Leander’s scowl deepened as he read his emails. “Spam. I keep getting spam,” he muttered. “There’s a flight out in one hour, but you’ll never make it with the traffic.”
“Doesn’t anyone care that Father is missing? Am I the only one who cares about him anymore?” Maggie put her hands on the hips of her dark, tailored pantsuit. Nathaniel had taken out his cell phone and was essentially ignoring her. Leander was still on his computer. Nikos was staring at the artwork on the walls. “He could be anywhere. Why aren’t any of you concerned? Something could have happened to him. He could be lost or hurt…”
“Oy vey!” Nathaniel grumbled. “He’s fine, Maggie. He always is.”
“But he’s getting worse. Admit it,” Maggie continued. “He’s forgetting things. He’s unpredictable. He needs constant supervision…” Maggie pursed her lips together tightly. She wasn’t about to get emotional in front of the others. She hated to appear weak. “Look, I just think that we need a new plan. What are we going to do about Father?”
“He’ll turn up. He always does eventually,” Nikos said. “I’m sure Nathaniel’s right. He’s fine.”
“I’m not talking about now. What about later? What about in the future? We need a long-term plan. We can’t have him floating about any way the wind blows.” Maggie took a deep breath. “I think we’ve come to a point in our lives where one of us will have to stay with him, to take care of him.”
Nathaniel groaned and put away his phone. “Maggie,” he said sternly. “We have a staff to look after him. They have a job. Let them do their job.”
“A staff? Very nice, Nathaniel!” Her voice was drenched in sarcasm. “That’s the problem. They’re not doing their job. You can’t expect any of them to take care of Father like one of us would.”
Nikos and Nathaniel looked over at Leander and then looked away. Even Maggie couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes. Clearly, Leander wouldn’t be the one to watch over their Father and keep him out of trouble. Deep down, Maggie always felt that the responsibility would fall on her shoulders.
“Maybe we just need to give him more to do,” Nikos offered. “He needs a project, something to keep his mind active.”
“You want to give Father a hobby,” Nathaniel chuckled. “Go right ahead, but make sure you give the rest of us a head start. I want to be far, far away when you suggest that Father should start collecting stamps.”
Maggie snorted. Nikos meant well, but they all knew that the old man wasn’t the type of guy who’d take an interest in new hobbies. He was too stubborn and set in his ways, but at his age, he probably had every right to be.
“I didn’t say he should take up a hobby,” Nikos said, in a calm voice. “I just thought we could give him…something. He needs to feel as though he’s still relevant. He needs to feel as though he’s still important to this family.”
“He is important,” Maggie protested.
“Is he? When was the last time you asked him for advice? When was the last time any of you went to Father about anything?”
Maggie looked down and stared at the toes of her expensive high-heeled shoes. Nathaniel grimaced and looked away. Leander was still staring at his computer screen, but had stopped typing. Nikos shook his head. They all knew he was right, whether or not they wanted to admit it.
“He’s a figurehead,” Leander finally stated. “That’s his role in this family. He’s no longer capable of making rational decisions. That’s what I think. There isn’t any point of giving him any other responsibilities. He knows he’s slipping. He’s not stupid. I say we let him be. If he gets hurt, then he gets hurt, but let’s not pretend that he’s ever going to be the man that he once was.”
Maggie balled up her fists in anger. “How can you say that? You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, none of us would be here.”
“You’re still living in the past, Maggie. You’re all still living in the past,” Leander said. He didn’t mean to sound cold. He was just being practical. He didn’t like what was happening either, but he wasn’t about to dwell on it. He still had responsibilities of his own to contend with. They all had more responsibilities than there were hours to handle them.
“What do you have to say about all of this, Nate?” Maggie waited expectantly for an answer. Of the four of them, Nathaniel was the eldest.
Nathaniel let out a long sigh. “Mags…”
“He promised to take care of us,” Maggie interjected. “He took each of us in, when we had nothing. He promised he’d give us a new life and he did. I can’t just stand here and do nothing. I can’t do that. It’s not right. Father kept his promises. Now it’s our turn to take care of him. He is our Father. We are his children. It’s not his fault. This could happen to any of us. None of us are getting any younger.”
“Promises!” Leander spat out the word. “Don’t talk to me about promises. He didn’t do any of us any favors. He’s always thought of his own needs first.”
“He’s an important man!”
“Yes? And a prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.”
“Don’t quote Machiavelli, Leander,” Nathaniel said, rubbing his brow. “It’s pretentious.” Nathaniel carefully adjusted his cufflinks. All eyes were on him. “We all agree; Father isn’t the man he once was, and…”
“And?” Maggie said impatiently.
“He’s obviously avoiding us.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Nikos said. “Maybe he just forgot we were coming.”
“He wiped the memory of two of his guards. He did not forget we were meeting with him this evening.”
“Tabula rasa,” Leander commented. “He left both men as clean as slates.”
“Leander! You’re doing it again.” Nathaniel sounded irritated.
Leander gave a subtle nod, though it wasn’t quite an apology.
“I don’t like this,” Maggie said. “I don’t like this at all.”
“He’s twenty-five hundred years old, Mags.” Nathaniel leaned forward in his seat. “There’s not a lot we can do.”
Maggie sighed. “I know, but when I think of what he gave us…he gave us the eternal gift.”
“That was a long time ago,” Leander stated. “We don’t owe him anything. If we were any other coven, we would have ended this nonsense hundreds of years ago.”
“If we were any other coven, he would have drained you dry!” Maggie snarled.
“This isn’t helping,” Nikos said. “He’s going to keep wandering off. Rumors are starting to spread amongst the younger ones in this family. Another coven might find out what’s happened to him, and take it as a sign of weakness. I’m not interested in a war. Maggie’s right. We need a plan.”
“Fine! I will take care of this,” Nathaniel announced. “I am next in line. It is my duty.”
“What are you going to do?” Maggie said. “Nathaniel? Nate! Don’t do anything foolish. What are you going to do?”
Nathaniel steepled his fingertips together. Their leader wouldn’t accept a babysitter. He didn’t want more guards. He certainly wasn’t going to allow himself to be forced into retirement. His mind wasn’t as keen as it might have been, but he could still remember names and faces. He wasn’t exactly senile, though he had mellowed immensely.
It didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. None of them had ever suspected that the eternal gift, wouldn’t last eternally. Their “Father” had been a mighty leader of a large coven. Many had feared him. Twenty-five hundred years later, he was still inducing fear, but for a far more unlikely reason. For all the terror he had previously caused, it seemed ironic that the greatest misdeed their leader would make, was growing old.
There were many factors to consider. Nathaniel pondered them, while the rest of the room held its breath. Nathaniel didn’t want to see his Father suffer, trapped inside the shell of the man he’d once been. He didn’t wish that fate on any vampire. He didn’t want the old man’s secret to get out. He didn’t want to risk going to war. Many vampires had been lost over the years. Their coven was currently enjoying a time of peace. The needs of the many had to come first.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just don’t know.”