Chapter 10: Suspicions.
The banquet was indeed great. In fact, Slayd couldn’t remember eating better food. He probably ate a little too much, but it tasted so good he had a hard time telling himself to stop. Guile did not eat. He simply sat by Slayd’s side in silence throughout the entire feast. He did not seem happy at all, which later on would begin to worry Slayd. He would wonder what Bad Things were going to happen soon that made him so apprehensive.
But Slayd didn’t really think too much on those things while the banquet was held. He had much to occupy his mind with already, because there were so many people who wished to talk with him, even though he did not know any of them, nor did he understand most of what they said to him. He didn’t know any of the history of the kingdom, and they constantly referred to events that he hadn’t heard of before. But from the way that they talked to him they certainly expected him to know what they were talking about. He did know, however, that everyone was convinced he was this man’s - this Moroloth’s heir, and that nothing he said to the contrary was going to persuade them that he was anything different.
Everyone was very kind, but each time they would approach him, when their conversation ended they would always walk away with a somewhat sad smile, and a shake of their head. They certainly knew him - or at least knew of him - but he knew none of them. …Perhaps he really was this Moroloth’s heir, and perhaps he really had lost his memories of being such. This thought began to trouble him more than any other.
When the banquet was done and people were slowly trickling out of the great hall, Jyrr came to Slayd and Guile’s table and brought them again before the king’s throne.
The Maggot King looked a long while at Slayd, with a faint smile on his face that flickered into pensive thought every now and then. At long last, his small eyes rested on Slayd’s pendant, hanging from his neck.
“Heir of Moroloth, you do not remember me, but I do indeed remember you. Your sire brought you to me once, long ago, when you were but a child.”
Slayd wanted to say that he still was a child. He could hardly call being only twelve years old anything else. But he remained quiet because it wasn’t polite to interrupt anyone, much less a king.
The king continued, “He charged me with keeping an heirloom until I beheld you once more, for we knew it would be a long while ere you entered the Maggot Kingdom again. That heirloom I still hold in my kingdom’s keeping, but I shall return it to you tonight.”
Bringing his hands together just in front of his nose, the Maggot King closed his eyes and began to chant slowly and brokenly, in a guttural language that Slayd had never heard before. And yet it sounded familiar somehow, like something Slayd might have once heard in a dream, or a daydream.
A tiny golden pinpoint of light seemed to drift down from the painted sky mural on the ceiling, swirling in gentle arcs to the rhythm of the king’s chanting. It slowly pulsed and grew until it was the size of Slayd’s fist, and the king held out a hand and plucked it from the air. The glow dissipated around the orb, revealing it to be a small locket. The king gently pulled it open with his thick fingers and pulled a tiny gold pin from within. He placed it carefully in Slayd’s hand.
“Thus I fulfill one point of the long-standing promise I made to your sire. This is but a pale and tiny symbol of the depth of my devotion to our Lord Moroloth. I am eternally awaiting his call. Remember that well.”
Slayd eyed the pin closely. It was a tiny artistic impression of a fly, carefully carved to be both beautiful and realistic at the same time. He noticed that it looked like the little fly that was carved into the bottom of his pendant.
The Maggot King nodded. “Indeed, its place is on the pendant that you carry. It and the pin are both heirlooms of yours, and only Moroloth’s true heir could ever wear that pendant.”
Slayd nodded slowly. “Thank you, sir.” And he made a clumsy bow.
The king smiled. “You have great things ahead of you, Heir of Moroloth. And as much as I would like to tell you all that I know of what you have forgotten, I cannot. It is not my place.”
He nodded towards Guile. “It is his duty, and his alone, to make you remember that which you have forgotten.”
He arose slowly from his great throne. “But I must leave you now. Jyrr will escort you to your chambers for the night.”
He inclined his head towards Guile and Slayd and left the great hall, flanked by his armored guardsmen.
Jyrr led them back along the open halls of the palace, up a few wide staircases and through more halls, until they reached the top of one of the largest towers which held solely guest chambers for only the most important of visitors. Along a smaller hallway here, he swung open a large door that led into a lavishly decorated receiving room with a fireplace already lit, and soft, deep cushions to sit on.
“Here I must leave you,” Jyrr said, “for I have other duties to attend to this evening. I do hope you have had a pleasant welcoming. Good night, dear Slayd.” He grabbed Slayd’s hand and kissed the back of it, drawing a silent snarl from Guile.
Slayd managed to stammer “Good night” to Jyrr before he turned to Guile, and smiled ever so pleasantly. “Good night, dear Guile. It was a pleasure to see you again.” And he attempted to do the same to Guile, but Guile snatched his hand away before he could. He passed Jyrr swiftly by, towing Slayd behind him, and shut the door on Jyrr’s still smiling face.
Once they were inside the room, Guile dropped Slayd’s hand and stared at the shut door, seeming to wait for something. But whatever it was he was waiting for, it didn’t happen. He grunted to himself, apparently satisfied that Jyrr would leave them be, at least for the night.
He crossed the receiving room and entered into one of four doors on the far side, leaving it open behind him. Slayd hurried to follow him.
The door that Guile had gone through led to an equally lavish bedroom. Already lit candles were lined along the walls, casting a soft glow across the room.
Guile hardly seemed to notice his surroundings though. He had turned, and all his attention was focused on Slayd now.
“You. Let. Him. Kiss. You.” He hissed, fixing Slayd with an eyeless stare. “Twice.”
“I – I didn’t think it was polite to not let him… it… it was just my hand.” He backed away a little from Guile, wishing he had stayed in the receiving room.
Guile snarled, his wings half-open and fangs bared. “You can’t trust him, Slayd! He would turn on you in an instant if he could. He is not your friend; he does not wish you anything but ill.”
Guile was advancing on Slayd now, and he kept backing away but quickly found himself against the wall. He imagined he saw a reddish glint in Guile’s eyeless sockets.
“Slayd, he - ”
A sharp knock on the door to the receiving room broke Guile’s intense stare. He hissed under his breath, “We will continue this later.” And he left the bedroom to receive their unexpected guest.
Slayd peered after Guile, wondering who might possibly want to talk to them at such a late hour (and was secretly relieved by their timing. He wasn’t all too eager to continue Guile’s conversation).
Guile opened the door, and much to Slayd’s surprise he heard him gasp.
The tall man at the door had a wide-brimmed hat that concealed his features, but Slayd knew he wouldn’t have recognized him even if he could have seen his face. A rasping voice greeted Guile, “’s been a while. Thought ya were dead.”
Guile shook his head. “Far from it. But I assume others have already told you of what happened after I left for the Veil. What are you doing here?”
The strange man shrugged and ignored Guile’s question. “They have. ’s not enough. I know ya. Ya leave words out of a tale if ya don’ know wha' ears may be listenin'. I wanna hear what really happened, and only from yer mouth.”
Dysz grasped Guile’s shoulders suddenly and pulled him into a tight embrace. “I’ve missed ya, prey.”
Slayd could see a toothy grin form under the shadow of his hat. Guile stood rigidly in surprise before he (Slayd thought) cautiously returned his embrace. “Don’t call me that. Though, it has been a while, hasn’t it? I must admit time is strange in the Veil.”
He stepped aside to let Dysz into the room, but the strange man shook his head. “I reckon I'd rather rather speak to ya alone.” For the first time he acknowledged Slayd’s presence. “’fraid I’m gonna steal yer Guardian away from ya for a while, Slayd. Hope ya don’ mind. We have a lot ta talk 'bout.”
Slayd nodded dumbly. Dysz turned back to Guile. “In tha years I’ve known ya, ya’ve spent far longer wanderin' these halls than I have. Find a place where we won’ be bothered.”
Guile nodded. “I know of a place. Slayd, stay here. I will return shortly. We will continue our conversation later.”
The two of them left Slayd at the door feeling indignant and left out, although he really didn’t understand why. But at least he didn’t have to listen to Guile yell at him about Jyrr, at least for a while.
And why did he always have to do what Guile said, anyways? The palace was the safest place they’d ever been since he’d arrived in this world, so he didn’t see any reason why he had to stay put while Guile got to go and catch up with one of his weird friends. He stuck his tongue out at the door. “I don’t always have to listen to you, you know. Everyone may say you’re my guardian, but I don’t remember ever asking you to be one. Hmph.”
He paced around the receiving room, pouting. “The palace isn’t anything like those temples, so if I want to go explore, I don’t see why I cannot. I mean, how else am I going to get my bearings in this place if I’m not allowed to see what’s around? And besides, who is to tell me what I am and am not ‘allowed’ to do anyway? I would think it would be the king, and he said I was welcome here.” Resolved in his thinking, he pulled open the door and stomped out into the hall.
It wasn’t long before he’d managed to get himself hopelessly lost, but he wasn’t worried, even though it was late. There weren’t very many people around at this time of night, but the ones that he did run into were perfectly polite and friendly, even though they did seem to stare at him and refuse to call him anything but the Heir of Moroloth.
He wandered around for a long time, until he found himself out on a balcony, overlooking the valley in the steep mountains surrounding the palace. The cool breeze felt good on his skin, and he stared up at the brilliant stars. They looked just as beautiful and blue as when he had seen them from the window in the Watcher’s tower.
A shadow fell over his face. Guile had been talking to himself then, and even the beauty of the stars couldn’t mask the sinister words he had overheard him say.
He jumped and turned to see Jyrr standing in the archway. He beamed at Slayd. “Well fancy finding you out here. Does that mean you remember? – No, no, of course not. It’s merely coincidence, I would imagine.” He came to stand beside Slayd and leaned on the railing, breathing deep the night air.
“What do you mean?”
Jyrr shook his head. “Oh, never mind. It’s not important, really. We just used to enjoy coming out here at night to find a little time to be alone, that’s all. I have fond memories of such times.”
Slayd rubbed his temples and sighed. “I’m sorry, Jyrr, that I don’t remember.”
Jyrr just smiled. Slayd thought it might have looked a little sad. “Well, that’s certainly not your fault, now is it? You cannot help having such things out of your control.” He caught a strand of Slayd’s ribbony hair in his fingers. “Though I do hope it will not be long before you remember me. We were close once, you and I.”
Slayd returned the smile nervously. “I – I think I know. Well, maybe. Guile wanted to tell me about it, but he didn’t get a chance. He didn’t make it seem like it had been a very Good Thing, though.”
Jyrr’s wide eyes stared dumbly at Slayd for a long moment before he said quietly – very quietly – “Well some things don’t change after all, now do they? No matter how much you wish that they would… I was afraid Guile would be up to his old tricks…” He sighed heavily. “Oh, what lies has that creature been trying to get you to swallow this time?”
Slayd stared down at the floor. “He hasn’t really had the chance to say much. He just says that I can’t trust you.”
Jyrr sighed again and gazed back out into the valley below them. He almost looked angry, from the way he kept clenching and unclenching his long fingers. It was a long time before he spoke again, and when he did his soft voice sounded strained. “Slayd, it is certainly not my place to bring your own memories back to you, but even so I find that I cannot help myself. Forgive me if I overstep my bounds, or say anything that might offend you.”
He took Slayd’s hands in his own, and stared down into his eyes. “He is not this wonderful protector you seem to think he is. He will use you for his own ends. He will hurt you, Slayd! I have been forced to sit by the sidelines before when he hurt you, but now… now his backing is gone. Our Lord Moroloth, may he rest in the Halls of Satarin, is dead. You don’t have to let him use you, you know. Has he even told you where you are going?”
Slayd hesitated, but nodded. “I think some place called Amoth Shyr, eventually.”
Jyrr’s eyes narrowed. “Yes. And has he told you what he intends to do when he gets there? Has he told you what he intends to do to you when he gets there?”
Slayd could do nothing but shake his head.
Jyrr’s expression turned gentle. “Of course he hasn’t. He doesn’t want you to know. I… I could tell you many things, but I don’t want to overstep my bounds in regards to your memory. I am afraid I have already said too much, but you must understand that I do so because I fear for you. Perhaps it will just suffice to say that in order to get what he wants, he will do anything to you, even kill you if he has to.”
Slayd couldn’t help but remember the night back in the Watcher’s tower when Guile had been talking to himself while Slayd was supposed to be sleeping. “What do you think he’s trying to do?”
“Do not repeat this to your Guardian, Slayd, I implore you. I fear that he may kill you if he even suspects that you know.” Jyrr’s soft voice dropped to barely a whisper.
“I believe he thinks that he can gain access to Moroloth’s power at Amoth Shyr. I believe he is using your position as his Heir to his own ends.
“Please be careful, Slayd. There is great power still lying with Moroloth, that did not die with him. Guile cannot access that power without you. There is great authority in being Moroloth’s Heir that you have only to remember in order to be able to call upon it. But you would need to gain your memories back first, and I think that is why Guile is taking you throughout the Kingdoms first. I believe he intends to wrest that power from you once you have unlocked whatever secrets to Moroloth’s power that he cannot divine for himself.”
Jyrr cupped Slayd’s chin in his long fingers. “I know that this must be very hard for you to hear, because I know he is your Guardian. You must trust him very much. I would not think it would be easy for you to hear that he might try to kill you.”
Slayd pulled away and shook his head. “I – I think I already know that.”
Jyrr blinked. “What?”
“Well…” Slayd squirmed under those intense eyes. “He doesn’t know I know or anything, but I’ve overheard him talk to himself a few times. Most of it I don’t really understand, but I do remember him mentioning once that he might have to kill me.”
Jyrr almost looked triumphant. “See! That is precisely what I am talking about, Slayd! He may have been pledged as your Guardian all those years ago, but there are many – not just me – who have thought it a mistake. You deserve better. You deserve the world, Slayd. It is certainly not fair to you that you should bear the burden of a murderous Guardian on your slender shoulders.”
“I don’t really think I deserve much of anything, Jyrr. I haven’t really done anything to merit any of the talk that everyone has for me.”
Jyrr patted his head. “But you don’t remember yet, so how could you say that you haven’t merited the words of the people? Give yourself some time, dear one. Don’t go with Guile, Slayd. Stay here where you will be safe, and I can help you remember. Nothing would give me greater pleasure.”
Slayd blushed, but shook his head. “I… I don’t think I can do that. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something that tells me that I really, truly won’t find out who I am if I don’t go with Guile. I think I would regret it if I stayed.” His eyes went wide. “Not that I would regret staying with you, Jyrr!” he stammered, “It’s just, I think there’s some Very Important Thing I need to do, but I won’t be able to do it all on my own and I have to go with Guile to figure out what I’m supposed to do. Oh, none of this makes sense even to me! I’m sorry Jyrr!” He covered his face with his hands and shook his head.
Jyrr smiled gently down at Slayd and pulled his hands away from his face. “I understand. Don’t trouble yourself with how I take your meaning, it is clear you are being forced into doing something you don’t want to do, even if you aren’t sure who is forcing you to do it. Would only that I were able, I would free you of all your burdens, and give you the world. But unfortunately, my dear Slayd, it is my position that prevents me from doing all that I can. Forgive me if I can only do a little.”
He pulled open his vest and handed Slayd a thin sheathed dagger. “If you ever feel your life in danger and I am not there to help you, you should have at least some way to protect yourself. Please, take it.”
Slayd hesitantly took the blade, tucking it carefully underneath his dress shirt. “Thank you, Jyrr, although I hope you understand that I really don’t know what to think. Or who to believe.”
Jyrr smiled. “Oh, that’s all right. I only hope you never have need of it. Maybe I am wrong, after all. Guile may have changed since I last saw him. It has been years, after all. But – of course that doesn’t change what you overheard, now does it?” He frowned.
“It’s okay, Jyrr. You don’t have to try to make him seem nicer or anything. It’s not like he really tries himself.”
Jyrr chuckled. “True enough, true enough. But I do believe I have kept you awake far past the time when both of us should be tucked away in bed.”
As if on cue, Slayd had to stifle a powerful yawn. “I guess I should go back to our room.”
“Do you feel safe going back? I mean, I could arrange for you to stay elsewhere, or you could stay with me - ”
Slayd shook his head. “Now that would upset Guile. I don’t want to make him any more angry than I have to.”
Jyrr waved away his own suggestion. “Oh, of course, of course. But please allow me to see you back.”
“I would like that, thank you.” He smiled. Jyrr was certainly a proper gentleman.
The two of them walked hand in hand on the way back to Slayd and Guile’s rooms. Slayd kept turning Jyrr’s suspicions about Guile over and over in his head. What if he really did mean to kill him, like he had overheard him mutter about? What if, once they reached Amoth Shyr, Guile intended to do Very Bad Things to him in order to get Moroloth’s power? Thoughts like those certainly weren’t going to help him get any sleep, that was for sure.
No one was in their rooms when they arrived, and Slayd was relieved. Jyrr seemed pleased about it too. “Might I make a suggestion, dear one?”
Slayd nodded. “I’ll listen to any advice you have to give me.”
Jyrr patted his head. “That is what I like to hear. If I were you, I would lock yourself up in one of your rooms and not come out until morning. If Guile comes back and wants to get in, he will have much more than just wood and steel hinges to keep him from getting to you. This whole palace has special enchantments.”
“Thank you, Jyrr. You have been so kind to me, I really do appreciate everything you are doing for me.”
“Alas that it is so little,” Jyrr sighed, “I only wish I could do more for you, but if I try, politics and intrigue would swallow us both up faster than we could flee.”
“I understand. Thank you.” Slayd beamed up at Jyrr, but ducked behind the door before he could bend to kiss him goodnight. Jyrr may be a gentleman, but Slayd could be painfully shy. And he was still afraid that Guile might find out about it.
He did exactly what Jyrr told him to, and locked himself in one of the four rooms. He hoped Jyrr was right about the enchantments, but he also hoped that Guile just wouldn’t come back at all that night. He snuggled down in the blankets and pillows and furs, and tried to sleep.
Sleep came faster than Slayd thought it would, but so did Guile. A soft tap on the door jolted Slayd out of a light and restless sleep, and he peeked out from under the covers at the door.
Tap. Tap. “…Slayd?”
He could hear Guile try the door handle, but as soon as he found out it was locked he stopped trying. Slayd heard a heavy sigh, and Guile left the door alone.
Slayd stared at the door for a whole ten minutes after, wondering what Guile might do next, but nothing happened. Ten minutes turned into an hour, and Slayd found himself drifting back to sleep.