Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(7)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(7)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

The Prince regarded him coolly before lifting his cup and tasting it. “Can broken minds be repaired? I’ve only had this pet a short time. It seems a shame to dispose of her so soon.”

“The effect of vampyre blood on broken human bodies is well documented. The effect on human minds is lesser known. Who would waste their blood on a pet with a broken mind?” The physician chuckled.

He caught the Prince’s narrowed eyes and abruptly stopped laughing. “I’ve never seen a psychiatric patient ingest vampyre blood. I admit it would make for an interesting experiment. I can’t promise positive results, however.”

The Prince placed his glass back on the table, his pale fingers tracing the rim. “In your medical training you must have dealt with the mind.”

“Yes, when I was a student. But I’m a surgeon, not a psychiatrist. I served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the Great War, before I was changed. I saw men lose their minds in battle and I ordered their evacuation. Forgive me, but I was adept at removing shrapnel and amputating limbs, not treating shell shock.”

“So there are treatments?” The Prince’s tone was remarkably subdued.

“At that time, we used Freudian psychotherapy, convalescence, shock therapy . . .” Stefan’s voice trailed off. He sipped his fortifying beverage. “Contemporary psychiatry is much more advanced. Now most disorders are treated with drugs and therapy. It depends on the condition and the patient.”

The Prince nodded distractedly, sipping from his glass once again.

Stefan leaned forward in his chair. “Perhaps if your lordship were to tell me what precipitated the break in your pet, I might be of help.”

“She suffered trauma as a child. Recently, she had an unexpected encounter with the person who inflicted the trauma. Her reaction to that short encounter was—puzzling.”

“Puzzling in what way?”

“She vomited and screamed obscenities. She struck him and devolved into uncontrollable sobs.”

“Ah,” said Stefan. “Pardon, my lord, but those reactions are not puzzling to me. Clearly, the pet was upset about seeing the person and acted accordingly.”

“That wasn’t the puzzling part. Afterward, she lay unmoving, eyes wide and unseeing, with shallow breath. She didn’t respond to my voice, and when I tried to move her she was stiff.”

“How long did it remain like that?”

“Until I used mind control to put her to sleep.”

Stefan’s eyebrows lifted. “Isn’t it normally under your control?”

The Prince smiled slowly. “I prefer my food to have a little more life in it.”

The doctor lifted his glass in salute. “An old one such as yourself has no need of mind control. But I’m not surprised your pet required it in this case. What you’re describing sounds like a condition called catatonia. A human physician would have run tests on your pet and medicated it. Where is it now?”

“She’s still asleep.”

“Have you tried to wake it?”

“No.”

“You may have trouble. Catatonia, trauma, and mind control are a taxing combination. Even if you’re able to wake the pet, it may not be the same.”

The Prince’s expression grew uneasy but he quickly adjusted it. “Do you mean the damage may be irreparable?”

“It’s possible. The pet had a breakdown and you used mind control on it, which may exacerbate the mental problems. Think of it as using a hammer to repair a broken vase. All that you’re left with is shattered porcelain.”

“Sard,” he muttered. “What if you were to treat her?”

Stefan’s hand shook as he guided his glass to the side table.

“I am your servant and I will, of course, do as you command. But there’s little I could do that couldn’t be done more effectively by a human psychiatrist who specializes in treating these kinds of cases. You’d have to remove the mind control before hospitalizing your pet, that is, if the control can be lifted. If your pet’s mind is truly broken, the easiest solution would be to keep it under mind control until you tire of it. Of course . . .” He gestured vaguely.

“What?” The Prince’s tone was sharp.

“Mind control works only because the conscious mind is being influenced. The pet’s memories would still be intact, just not available to the conscious mind. As a physician, I’d worry your pet would still have psychiatric problems that even mind control could not eliminate. For example, it may remain catatonic.”

“What if I were to execute the man who troubled her? Invited her to watch?”

Stefan restrained a smile. “With respect, my lord, you’re thinking like a vampyre. If your pet is traumatized by merely seeing the man, think of what would happen if it were forced to witness his execution.”

He broke eye contact and rubbed the back of his neck. “May I speak freely?”

“That is why I brought you here.” The Prince leaned against the desk, crossing his arms over his chest.

“If you prefer your pets to have life in them, the level of mind control necessary to manage a broken mind would be too much. As I said, you’d be better off finding another, healthier pet. Even under mind control, the pet might be unpredictable, unstable.” He gripped the armrests of his chair. “A security risk.”

The Prince drained his glass. “Thank you, Stefan. I will take your opinion under advisement.” His gray eyes fixed on the younger vampyre. “I assume you will keep this conversation confidential.”

   
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