Chapter 12: Uncomfortable Secrets and a Possible Purpose?
Very late that night the reception had ended, and the crowd had slowly trickled away. Slayd thought he must have said "good night" to over a hundred people before he finally got to leave the hall, exhausted and still kicking himself over not being able to sing for them. He leaned on one of the pillars outside the hall and rubbed his tired eyes. Even if he might suspect he wasn't exactly who they thought he was, he still felt like he'd let them all down.
"Would you like me to walk you to your room?"
Slayd glanced up at Jyrr and nodded. "I'd like that."
They took the long way around, avoiding the small groups of people who still lingered together in the halls.
"Are you all right, dear one?"
Slayd shrugged. "I guess so. I had a really fun time and all, but I just feel bad about not knowing any songs. And I am very tired."
Jyrr patted him on his head. "Oh, don't trouble yourself about it. Everyone understands the situation you are in. You will remember, in time. And we will wait for you. When you do remember, know that we will always be watching for you. Perhaps, then you will sing your most beautiful song." He smiled. The look in Jyrr's eyes made it pretty obvious to Slayd he wasn't really talking about the people of the Maggot Kingdom.
He blushed and nodded. "Maybe I will. I hope I will. Thank you, Jyrr."
They stopped at the door to Slayd and Guile's rooms. "Are you sure you wish to stay here tonight, Slayd? Though I may have said it lightly, please know that my offer from last night is always open."
Slayd's face burned again. "I - I need to stay. I don't want to make Guile mad. I haven't seen him all night, and I have a Very Bad Feeling he's not in a very good mood. The last thing I want to do is do something that will make him even angrier."
Jyrr stroked his cheek with a finger. "Be careful, dear one. You are precious to me, and I cannot abide the thought of something happening to you when I am not there." He brushed Slayd's lips with his own.
"Perhaps, perhaps one day very soon, you will remember what you mean to me."
Slayd found himself breathless and stammering as Jyrr pulled him close. He smelled like honeysuckle and wormwood.
"I - I don't know how long we're staying in the Maggot Kingdom, Jyrr, I don't know if - "
"We leave tomorrow."
Slayd jumped, and Jyrr jerked back away from Slayd like he had just been turned into hot coals. Guile was leaning on the wall opposite them, arms crossed and eye sockets narrowed. "Get in the room, Slayd."
The deadly quiet in Guile's voice hastened Slayd to obey. Guile stalked in after him, slamming the door shut on Jyrr's face.
"Do you never listen to a word I say? Or do you disobey me because it gives you pleasure?" He loomed over Slayd like a shadow. Slayd didn't answer, but rushed over to the room he had locked himself in the night before and tried to shut the door behind him. Guile followed fast after him though, and blocked the door with his shoulder.
Slayd shook his head. "You always expect me to do what you say, but you never say why! Why do I always have to ask the right questions? Why can't you just answer me?!"
Guile snarled and slammed his weight into the door, flinging it wide and knocking Slayd to the floor. He pounced on top of him and smacked him hard across his face.
"I will answer you only when I damn well feel like it. You will do as you are told, and I told you to stay away from Jyrr. You disobey me again, and I will break you apart."
Tears and maggots sprung up in Slayd's eyes, and he looked away and nodded. Guile grunted and pulled Slayd to his feet. "You want an explanation? I have already given you one. He is a threat. Is this not proof?" He slipped a hand inside Slayd's shirt and pulled out the thin dagger that Jyrr had given him.
Slayd flinched and looked away. "He gave me that to protect me from you."
"Oh? Or to incite you to turn on me in hopes of getting me conveniently out of the way? I know of what he spoke to you about. Did it never occur to you that he would lie, or disguise his own intentions as my own?"
Slayd couldn't answer. He stared up at Guile wide-eyed and confused.
"You cannot trust him." The reddish glint behind Guile's eye sockets certainly wasn't just a product of Slayd's imagination this time. "Slayd, he would seduce you. He's already trying. Do not let him think he has you."
Slayd shied away from Guile, who was only inches from his face now. He stammered, "Why would he do that? He's been nothing but nice and kind and polite to either you or me!"
"Does he already have you then?" Guile hissed, a sardonic leer etched across his face. "Do not make a mistake about his intentions, Slayd. He wants nothing more than to burrow into your naked flesh, leak your warm blood onto the floor, and kill you slowly with his pallid, cadaverous charm."
Slayd winced. "How do you know?"
Guile snorted, the scornful smile still on his lips. "Because he has done it to you before, Slayd."
Slayd blinked. "... What?"
Guile sighed, and the scorn left his face, leaving only a wild sort of tenderness. He cupped Slayd's face gently with one hand, and stared in his eyes.
"Perhaps for once I can answer your questions, regardless of whether or not they are the right ones to ask. Do you remember the speech that the Maggot King gave yesterday evening? And he mentioned that you didn't remember anything about this kingdom, even though you've been here before?"
"That was many years ago, Slayd. Jyrr was charged with assisting you all the while you were here, as an aide and guide."
Guile smiled at the confused look on Slayd's face. "You are far older than you think you are, Slayd. You are the heir of Moroloth, this world's greatest hero. He sired you long ago, but you are not his son. He spawned you from his magic."
Slayd blinked. "I know that you and everyone else here think of me as his Heir, but I'm pretty certain I'm not exactly who you think I am. I might have been at one time, but I don't think I am anymore." He took a deep breath, hoping he wouldn't make Guile mad again.
"I know I have a family. Or at least I did, once. I had a mother and father, and I might have had a brother or two, and we lived in a little farmhouse on the side of a hill. But then I died... And then I came here..."
Guile shook his head and smirked. "Ah, that farmhouse again. Those are false memories, Slayd. False memories which should fade in time. They are but dreams from another world."
He turned from Slayd and gazed at the silent blue flame flickering in the hearth. "It is true; you were dead for a time. But I found you again and brought you back, and I'm not about to lose you to phantom dreams of things that never were."
Slayd frowned at Guile, not willing to believe what he was telling him. He didn't want to think about that right now, anyway. "Tell me about Jyrr."
Guile prodded at the fire with Slayd's dagger to fuel the flames. "You have visited the Maggot Kingdom many times, always in my company and often in that of our Master's as well. Every time we came, Jyrr was always eager for your company, and the two of you spent much time together. With each visit that we made, Jyrr became more and more infatuated with you. You filled his every waking moment, and probably his sleeping ones as well, trying to think of any way he could to take you as his own. He didn't care about your lineage, or what I would have done to him if I found out. He couldn't see anything but the vision of your broken body lying before him."
Slayd squirmed at the thought. "But - how do you know this?"
Guile hissed quietly and turned to regard Slayd again. "The people of this kingdom have a certain fondness for their dead and dying. Often when they are in love and their lives are nearing an end, one will sacrifice themselves for the other. It is regarded as a beautiful and romantic thing, although I admit I have no knowledge of such notions."
He shook his scarred head, holding Slayd's gaze. "You and I have known Jyrr for many years. He has this same inclination, however within his mind and fancy it takes a vile form."
"It does? How do you know?"
"He talks in his sleep. When he began to watch you closely, I began to watch him. I could not let anything bad happen to you. But I failed, and he got to you before I could stop him."
Slayd cringed. He didn't want to hear what Jyrr had done to him, not yet. "Why do you care what happens to me?"
Guile chuckled, but the look on his face was far from humorous. "Despite what Jyrr would have you believe, it is not possible for me to betray you to some wild flight of fancy about usurping power for myself. I have had power before, Slayd, and despite all its charm and promise, it is rarely the wonderful thing that so many seem to think it is."
Guile turned the thin dagger over in his hands once more before handing it back to Slayd. "Keep your blade, if it makes you feel better. Jyrr knows me well, though not well enough. That blade is poisoned."
Slayd took it from Guile's hand, hesitating before tucking it back into his shirt. Guile smiled, a little bitterly. "I can only tell you to trust me, though I cannot give you any real proof that you can do so without fear. Suffice it to say that I would rather forfeit my own life than see you die. Is that enough?"
Slayd squirmed under Guile's eyeless gaze. "I guess it's going to have to be... But, I still don't understand why you care about what happens to me."
Guile didn't say anything for a long moment, and Slayd almost began to think he was not going to answer. But then he sighed and let his gaze wander away from Slayd's eyes. "I have been charged with protecting you, Slayd. My life's entire purpose is ensuring that you stay alive until you can fulfill the fate that has been put before you - and if need be, to force you into that fate. However, once you are on that path there is nothing else I can do but stay by your side.
"I have been charged with your life and your fate, and I would go to death and beyond it - have gone to death and beyond it, to keep the vows I have been bound to. I would do so again in a heartbeat. Never doubt that."
Slayd stared openmouthed at Guile for a long moment. Was this the same Guile who had seemed so violent and petty just moments before? "Who - who charged you with this duty?"
Guile looked down at Slayd's pendant, hanging from his neck. Slayd had almost forgotten he was wearing it. "Our Lord, the Lich King Moroloth."
Slayd turned his pendant over, watching the eye embedded in its center watch him. "This is his heirloom, right?"
"It is much more than just that. It is part of Moroloth himself. He died a very long time ago, but that eye is his own. He lives on in that pendant. Only his heir can wear it, and only his heir can bring his corpse back to life."
Slayd blinked. "But I don't know how to do something like that!"
Guile smiled. "Yes, you do. You just don't know it yet. But before you can resurrect him, you will need the tokens of the kings. You already have one. Moroloth presented each of the four most powerful kings with a token of his power, as a promise and a pledge that he would return. The Maggot King gave you his. Once all of them are returned to their places on that pendant, they will release the magic contained within them."
Slayd pulled out of his pocket the tiny gold pin that he had received from the king at the banquet. He studied it for a moment, and then placed it over the fly carving on the pendant. The little pin flashed a quick sparkle of gold, and seemed to melt into the carving.
"We need to visit three of the other greatest kingdoms in order to receive the other pledges," Guile commented, "and along the way I am determined to bring your memories back to you. I am certain that the more you see of this world, the more you will remember. I have a feeling that some of the people we will meet along the way will help your memories return. You were beloved of many before you left. The peoples' love for you still rings true, as I am sure you know just by the way you have been received here.
"And once we receive the pledges of the greatest of the Insect Kings, we will return to Amoth Shyr." Guile took a slow, deep breath, "...and then we will resurrect Moroloth."
Slayd missed the gravity in Guile's voice. "What will resurrecting him do?" He ran a finger over the now-golden fly carving on the bottom of the pendant.
Guile shook his head. "You need rest, Slayd. Even the heir of Moroloth needs sleep."
He took Slayd's hands in his own and walked him over to the bed in the corner. He gently but firmly pushed him down, making him flop backwards. He waved a hand in the direction of the hearth, and the flame snuffed itself out. In the dark, Slayd heard Guile unfurl his wings and felt him lie down next to him. Soft, downy feathers enveloped him, and suddenly he felt very, very sleepy.