Chapter 13: Small Revelations.
He dreamed that night. He dreamed of a little hillside with a white farmhouse on it, and of children playing near an old oak tree. He dreamed of insects and summoning, and magic and pain. He dreamed of people he never knew, and places he felt he should know but didn’t. He dreamed of Guile watching him as he slept, and of a tall dark phantom of a being who showed him things he never wanted to see.
When he awoke, Guile was watching him quietly, perched on the edge of the bed with his wings half-open. He didn’t say anything, just smiled a quick half-smile that was gone a second later.
Slayd rubbed his eyes sleepily and stretched. “Good morning,” he yawned.
Guile had an odd look on his face that Slayd couldn’t quite place. “What is the matter?”
His guardian shook his head thoughtfully. “You looked so much like your old self for a fleeting moment as you slept. I almost thought I had gotten you back, for just that moment. But it passed. It always passes.”
Slayd closed his eyes and sighed. Despite all of his misgivings about who he really was to this world, he couldn’t deny that Guile knew a lot more than he did about where he came from, regardless of whether he really was that same person or not. “I dreamed last night.”
He nodded. “I don’t really know about what, but I am pretty sure you do.”
Guile chuckled. “Do I, now? Can I read your mind?”
“You seem to, sometimes.”
He patted him on his head. “Someday I may tell you why. But tell me of your dreams.”
Slayd shrugged. “Just more images, really. I… Sometimes I find myself thinking of things like a family and a farmhouse and a pretty hill covered in daisies. But… but sometimes when I think of them they start to feel like cobwebs in my brain, and then they seem all muddled and blurry.” He looked helplessly up at Guile, struggling to find the right words. “They almost – they almost seem like they slip away from me, almost as if they weren’t really there at all… I do not really know what I am trying to say, but since you pulled me from that mirror what seems like ages and ages ago, when I think about what has happened since then, it seems…”
Slayd ran a hand over his eyes. He shouldn’t feel this tired already, he just woke up. “I guess so. Sometimes I really want to remember everything that you say I should, but at the same time I really am afraid to find out.”
He sat in bed, thinking long and hard, while Guile watched him in silence. Everything around him had been growing slowly more and more familiar to him, like his brain was just on the verge of remembering something grand and important, but it was as if those memories were just out of reach. But they certainly did not feel as if they were about to vanish.
He sighed. Guile had been more straightforward with him yesterday evening. Perhaps if he asked him, he would finally decide to tell him the truth (even if he was still afraid to hear it). He decided right then that it was time to ask the Right Question.
“Who am I, Guile?”
Guile did not answer for several long moments. He just sat there, gazing at Slayd with a contemplative look on his face. Then he spoke, quietly. “I have tried to delay this as long as I possibly could, because I did not wish to shock you into denying everything I would say. Indeed, if I had done that when you had first asked me that question, you would never have made it this far. I have a feeling you would have fled me and returned to the Temple of Mirrors and your dreams.
“Even now I am reluctant to simply tell you. But if I do not say anything now, others will, and I would rather you be confused by me than by strangers.”
He paused and rubbed at his eye sockets with his thumb. Slayd imagined that like himself, he was feeling very tired inside (and indeed he was, but he did not tell Slayd that). Instead he said, “I do not think it wise to tell you your own memories. I would rather you recall them on your own. So I will be as brief as I can, and let you try to fill in the rest on your own. But even then, it will take a long while to tell you your whole story. There is much to tell you, Slayd. Or rather, my Lord Slayd, Heir of the great and noble Lich King Moroloth.”
Slayd blinked. “Lord?”
Guile nodded. “You are entitled to the honor. I was there when he formed you. He charged me to always be by your side, to protect you and keep you from harm until the day came when you would fulfill his self-proclaimed prophecy that you would revive his corpse and restore him to his former glory.”
“…You have been with me all the time?”
A smile. “It is my duty. Though I have left you for short times, you are always under my guard. The oaths of loyalty I have sworn to you are deeply binding. The only oath above them is the one I have made to our Lord Moroloth himself. You are my master.”
Slayd fidgeted and muttered, “It certainly doesn’t feel like it.”
Guile chuckled and patted him on his head. “There is a side of you that you have forgotten about, and I cannot say I am sorry to see it is buried so deep inside of you. But one day you will remember your arrogance, your haughty pride. Just as one day you will remember how powerful you really are.”
Slayd shook his head. “I really can’t help it, Guile, but I just cannot imagine that I have ever had power. I’m little and weak.”
“No, you misunderstand. You have immense reservoirs of magic stored up within you. When you were created, Moroloth used ancient rites and dark arts previously known only to the Grigora. He broke off a portion of his own magic and infused inside you all he was capable of, for you to restore to him when he is resurrected. It is only natural that you would be able to channel that power. Indeed, I have seen you do incredible things.”
He shrugged and kicked his feet over the edge of the bed. “I still can’t seem to believe it. But I suppose I will find out eventually, huh?”
A single nod from his guardian. “There is much to find out. I suppose all will come in time. It is a pity that I am not a terribly patient person.”
Slayd giggled. “Well neither am I.” He grew serious again quickly. “But if I have so much magic inside of me, how is it I don’t feel it at all? Is it only because I don’t remember?”
“I do not know. I would have thought you would have shown some sign by now of the legacy held within you, but I cannot say that it has manifested itself even the slightest, at least not to my knowledge. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that you were born of two very different magics; that of the arts of Moroloth, and that of the stolen secrets of the Grigora. Perhaps when you left for the Veil, one or both of those powers left you. Truthfully, I do not know. The Veil is a strange place, where strange things happen.”
Slayd nodded, and pursed his lips. “I don’t mean to change the subject, but you said I’ve changed. Was I really very conceited? If I was, I certainly do not want to go back to being so.”
Guile’s hoarse laugh sounded loud in the room. “Well that is something you probably will not be able to help, Slayd. I will not lie to you though. You were spoiled and very used to getting your own way. I must say, your attitude had been a thorn in my side ever since you were very small. Would I had a say in the matter,” and here he petted Slayd’s ribbony hair, “I would purge your arrogance altogether. Indeed I have tried many times. But you are Moroloth’s Heir, and there are some parts of you that even I cannot conquer.”
Slayd squirmed under Guile’s touch. His words sounded bitter to his ears. “You said I was made to revive Moroloth, and that’s why I have his magic inside of me, right?”
“But why did he need to make a whole new person for that? I mean, would it not have been easier to just pick somebody to carry his magic until he needed them again?”
“That is not the right question to ask, Slayd. I cannot give a true answer.” His eyes lingered on the pendant around Slayd’s neck. “Perhaps he wished for someone only he could influence and mentor. And manipulate.” The eye flared red for a moment, and Guile turned away. He said softly, “but perhaps he desired not only a vessel, but an Heir. A legacy. A son.”
Slayd stared down at the eye set in the pendant, and stroked it delicately with his thumb. “Umm… Guile? I know it is probably a very stupid question to ask, but I don’t really have much to go on right now. Who is Moroloth? I mean, I’ve heard that he is this great and wonderful hero and that he is called a Lich King and a savior, and he summoned something called Grigora and doing that made people not be afraid anymore - and that his eye is in this pendant, but that’s all I know.”
The corner of Guile’s mouth turned up, just a little. “I could indeed tell you the story of Moroloth, because everyone knows it - and I most of all, because I was by his side throughout most of the tale. But perhaps you should visit the library here in the palace, and ask of the Keeper of the Scrolls what he recorded of the epic heroism of Moroloth.”
Slayd frowned. “I’d rather have you tell me.”
“He is more objective than I.”
There came a soft knock on the bedroom door then, and Guile rose to answer it.
It was Jyrr. “A very good morning to you Guile,” he greeted cheerily, “and to you of course, dear Slayd.”
All gentleness had immediately vanished from Guile the moment he saw Jyrr. “What do you want, Jyrr?”
“Ah, I’m terribly sorry to interrupt you this fine morning, particularly so early, but the king would like to have a word with you, Guile. Pertaining to your eminent journey into the, um - the Spider Queen’s domain. He said it might worry the child.” Jyrr’s smile faltered for a fraction of a second when he said “Spider Queen”, and Slayd got a Very Bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Guile just sighed impatiently.
“Very well. Where is he?”
“In the Chambers of Council. I can escort you to him, if you would like.”
Guile just grunted as a reply, and motioned Jyrr out the door. He turned to Slayd and muttered, “I will be back shortly. You will stay here, all right?” And he shut the door behind him.
Guile was gone for a long time, and Slayd was getting a tiny bit restless and fidgety with nothing to do but wait. He’d gotten up and dressed himself back in his old clothes (the new ones were too fancy for his taste). He paced the room, wondering who this “Spider Queen” was and why they had to visit her, and why she made Jyrr nervous. But his thoughts quickly turned back to the events of last night, and his imagination began to run away with him.
“Oh dear. Guile certainly has been more truthful with me since last night, but must he be so violent about it beforehand? And I certainly cannot just ignore the warnings that Jyrr gave me, either.”
His pacing grew more agitated as he started imagining plots within plots on how both Jyrr and Guile were trying to overthrow whole kingdoms, kill each other, and always manage to find all kinds of ways to keep Slayd unhappy.
“Oh dear, oh dear! I have no idea who to trust at all right now! I - ”
A soft tap on the door drew his attention away from his wild flights of fancy. He stopped his pacing and opened it, secretly relieved that his thoughts had been interrupted.
“Why hello, Lord Slayd.”
Slayd stared blankly at the young man who had sung in his place the night before, trying in vain to remember his name. “Good morning… um…”
He smiled warmly. “My name is Drael, my lord. You must have had so many names thrown at you these past few days.”
Slayd grinned sheepishly back. “It has been a bit of a whirlwind, I have to admit. Um… I don’t know if I’m allowed to let you in or not. Guile is gone at the moment.”
Drael cocked his head to one side. “I am afraid I don’t understand. Who ‘allows’ you? You are the Heir of Moroloth. The kings of Dehalen bow down to you.”
Slayd shrugged. “Tell that to Guile. He is my guardian after all, so he is supposed to know what is best for me. He told me to stay here, so I had better obey him. But…” Slayd paused for a moment, “But he didn’t say anything about letting anyone in, and he certainly is taking a while. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt. Would you like to come in, Drael?”
His smile widened. “I would love to, thank you.”
Slayd ushered his new guest in. “What can I do for you?”
Drael shook his head. “Oh, that is certainly out of the question. I am here to see if there is anything I can do for you. You see, the Prince of Flies has been concerned for your safety recently. He requested that I attend to anything you wish, and also to keep my eyes open for any hostile behavior from anyone who may come around you.”
Slayd frowned. “Prince of Flies?”
“Jyrr, my lord.”
“Oh! I see. Everyone has a title around here, it seems. Did… did he tell you why he was concerned?”
“No, but I could venture a guess.” He cocked his head at the door. “Your guardian has never sat well with me, nor with many others in the Maggot Kingdom. There are rumors that breed around him like fruit flies on fermenting sugar, and none of them are pleasant.”
Slayd fidgeted. “So I have heard, I guess. But… sometimes he can be kind. I really do think he is trying to protect me and do his duty.” He hoped that Drael wouldn’t catch on that he was trying to convince himself of his own words as well.
Drael chuckled. “I like to believe that people are basically good, so I cannot say I disagree with you. All I know is the rumors I have heard and what little Jyrr has let slip of his own concerns. But Jyrr’s word is enough for me. He has never misguided me.”
Slayd got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Guile’s warnings about Jyrr were still fresh in his mind, but so far Jyrr had done nothing to indicate that Guile was telling the truth about the whole situation. Slayd turned over the possibility that Jyrr was right and that Guile had just made up all the things about Jyrr because he was jealous. And what if Jyrr was right about Guile? What if the rumors were true?
“Is something the matter? You look worried.”
Slayd stared at the floor and slowly shook his head. “I’m just… I have a lot to think about. Most of it I don’t really want to think about at all, though.”
“Perhaps I can find something to entertain you. Is there anything you would like to do while you are still here in the Maggot Kingdom? I have heard that you and your guardian are leaving soon. Jyrr says he doesn’t know how long it will be until you come by this way again.”
“Well, I don’t really have any of my memories of this place, so I can’t really think of anything to do. Besides, I don’t think Guile would be very happy if I went anywhere without his permission. And where is he, anyway? He said that he would only be gone for a short time, but it’s been almost a forever.”
Drael giggled. “Jyrr told me that he had an audience with the Maggot King. The king enjoys being long-winded, particularly when it comes to unpleasant subjects. From what I heard, he wanted to talk to Guile about the Spider Queen, and she is a particularly unpleasant subject. I’d imagine he will keep Guile occupied with talk for quite a while.”
Slayd couldn’t help but notice the shiver that ran up Drael’s back when he mentioned the Spider Queen. It made Slayd squirm. He hoped they really didn’t have to go by her kingdom.
Noticing his pensive expression, Drael placed a hand on Slayd’s shoulder. “Might I be of any help?”
Slayd shook his head. “There’s no helping a conversation I really don’t know anything about, I suppose.”
“I suppose not.”
Slayd sighed and fingered the pendant around his neck. Despite how nice Drael was, he was getting restless. “Well… there may be something you can help me with after all, although I don’t really know if I am supposed to do it without Guile.”
“What is that?”
“Well, Guile told me I am supposed to find the Keeper of Scrolls at some point, but I don’t know who he is or if he’d even want to talk to me. And Guile never mentioned whether I was supposed to go alone or have him come along too,” he fidgeted with the clasp on the pendant’s chain, “I mean, Guile did tell me to stay here. I have already disobeyed him before about staying put, and I really don’t mean to do so again.”
“Ah, I see.” Drael nodded. “However, you also said that he meant for you to speak to the Keeper of the Scrolls. If he intends to leave as quickly as possible, would it not do to save him the trouble of doing it when he gets back?”
Slayd nodded slowly. “I just don’t know which he meant more.”
“The Keeper of the Scrolls is almost always in the library. I could take you there; it is not very far away. I know the Keeper of the Scrolls, and I can assure you he would be willing to talk to you. He is a bit grumpy, but he’s a very old man, and most very old men are bound to be a bit grumpy.” He snickered a little to himself, and Slayd grinned.
“Well, I suppose we could give it a try. Would you show me the way to the library?”
The library was not very far away from where Slayd and Guile’s guest chambers were, which made Slayd secretly relieved. He did not like the idea of being out and about without Guile in the castle, even with someone as friendly and helpful as Drael.
The library itself was huge. There were several levels to it, connected by wrought iron spiral staircases and movable ladders. There were countless oaken book cases, each filled with ancient manuscripts, scrolls, books, and all manner of odds and ends. It was very dusty, but not because it wasn’t well kept. It just held very old things, and very old things tend to be dusty no matter how clean and well kept they are.
Drael directed him down on particular aisle of shelves. “There should be a desk just beyond that far book case,” he whispered, “it will more than likely be very overrun with papers and things, but the Keeper of the Scrolls should be there. If he is not there now, he will be shortly. He usually isn’t away from his desk for long.”
Slayd thanked him, and with a quick kiss on Slayd’s hand and a mischievous grin, Drael slipped away out of the library.
Slayd followed the aisle down to the very end and indeed, just beyond the last book case there was a very wide desk with piles and piles of paper and parchment stacked precariously upon it, towering and teetering unsteadily. Dozens of feather quills were scattered in between paper stacks, with the occasional half empty bottle of ink being used as a paper weight.
Sitting on a very high stool behind this desk was a bald, grey-eyed little man with square glasses perched at the end of his nose. Bushy white eyebrows extended far beyond his face, and his thin goatee reached down to the top of the table. Slayd got the distinct impression that he was a very ancient person. He very well could have said he was a thousand years old, and Slayd would have believed him. (He really was far older even than that, but Slayd did not know this.)
As Slayd approached the cluttered desk, the old man glanced up at him, and then quickly turned his attention back to the parchment scroll that he was writing furiously upon. Not being one to try to interrupt someone who is very obviously busy, Slayd just stood by the desk, and waited for the man to acknowledge his presence. But it was a very long while before he even stopped writing.
Slayd was getting kind of bored, but he really needed to talk to this Keeper of the Scrolls, so he waited and waited. When the old man finally jabbed his quill firmly down on the paper one last time, marking the end of his parchment, he glanced back up at Slayd and then again looked back down at his paper. But then he paused, set his quill down and looked back up again, as if he had just seen Slayd standing there for the first time.
“Can I help you?” He said, in a slightly irritated tone.
Slayd stammered, but collected himself quickly. “Umm… My name is Slayd. I was told that the Keeper of the Scrolls could help me find the history of the hero Moroloth.” He wasn’t sure which of the many titles he really should refer to Moroloth as, but he assumed “hero” would do.
The old man nodded shortly. “I am the Keeper of the Scrolls. And I can help you find what you seek.” He stared at Slayd as if expecting him to say something.
Slayd fidgeted. “Umm… I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. If… if you want, I could wait until a better time, you look awfully busy, and I don’t want to interrupt anything important – ”
“This,” he interrupted Slayd by waving impatiently at the stacks of papers, “is not important at all. They write themselves and file themselves, and all in all I’m just here for decoration.” He paused and regarded Slayd irritably. But as Slayd opened his mouth to apologize, he had already cut him off. “There are many works regarding Moroloth. I assume you want the version that I wrote myself. Correct?” He nodded to answer his own question, not even waiting for an answer from Slayd.
He had climbed off of his high stool now, and was rapidly striding down one of the many aisles of books. Slayd hurried to catch up and heard him commenting, “Of course you would want the unbiased records. The Heir of Moroloth would not trifle with half truths and folklore. I had known that you lost your memory, and expected you to see me before you had left the Maggot Kingdom. You cannot expect to fulfill your duty with only half a stable brain rattling around in there, muddling things up and confusing you to hell and gone. Ah, here we are.”
He stopped in front of a tall ladder on wheels, and swiftly ascended its rungs nearly to the top of the bookshelf that it was resting against. He leaned over to one side and pulled out a thick, red leather-bound volume. He blew on it, sending a tiny cloud of dust into the air, and then descended the ladder just as quickly as he had climbed up. He dumped it into Slayd’s hands, and strode back the way he had come.
“Umm… thank you!” Slayd said, running to catch up with him. “When would you like it back? Or would you like me to stay in the library while I read it?”
The Keeper of the Scrolls didn’t look back at Slayd as he walked; he just waved a hand vaguely. “There is no need to return it. It belongs to you, Heir of Moroloth. However, if you wish to, you may give it to me again the next time we meet. But that may be a long while, or quite possibly never. Never would be perfectly fine.”
Slayd nodded dumbly. “Umm… Well, thank you again, I do appreciate -”
“You may have time on your side, you may not. But I would suggest leaving me to decorate my desk with my presence, and go read your history somewhere else.”
“Right.” Slayd quickly retreated down another aisle, and made his way back to the entrance of the library. The Keeper of the Scrolls certainly was a bad-tempered person. Or perhaps he was just extraordinarily busy. Slayd imagined that people with that much paperwork piled up on their desk must have little time for a strange little child, “Heir of Moroloth” or not.
Drael was waiting for him just outside the library doors. Sitting next to him was Jyrr, who had been talking quietly with his friend until he noticed Slayd coming up to them clutching the sizeable volume of history to his chest. Both Drael and Jyrr beamed at him.
“Good morning again, dear one. Drael tells me that you went to speak with the Keeper of the Scrolls. I assume everything went well?”
Slayd nodded. “He seems to be a very irritable sort. I hope I didn’t annoy him too terribly.”
Jyrr laughed. “Don’t worry about it. He is always like that, on a good day or bad. And since he did indeed help you, I think you caught him on a good day.” He smiled and patted Slayd on the shoulder as friendly encouragement, but it made Slayd a little nervous. He was probably jumping at shadows, but he still didn’t know what to think of Jyrr.
“I really should be going back to our guest chambers, I think. Guile might already be there, and I wouldn’t want him to worry that I’d wandered off and gotten lost somewhere.”
Jyrr nodded. “All right. Despite my own suspicions about him, he does seem to worry about you so. It’s actually quite endearing, in an overbearing, tyrannical sort of way.”
Slayd almost laughed at the comment, but stopped himself short. Drael snorted. “From what you’ve mentioned, ‘endearing’ isn’t quite a word I would use to describe his guardian, my prince.”
Jyrr waved his comment away with a hand. “Everyone has their moments, I suppose.”
Drael made a little bow to both Jyrr and Slayd. “I should return to my other duties. Now that you are here, I know the Heir of Moroloth is in safe hands.” He took Slayd’s hand in his own for a moment. “I do hope I get to see you again before you leave the Maggot Kingdom, Lord Slayd. It is always a pleasure to be in your presence.” He flashed him a lopsided grin, dodged a reproving look from Jyrr, and trotted away down the hall.
Jyrr shook his head after him. “He is a good friend, even if he does take liberties he should not.”
He beamed at Slayd. “On our way back to your guest chambers, would you like to stop by the royal kitchens? They always have something sweet and sugary baking, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if we sampled some. I can guarantee you won’t have anything like it in the other kingdoms.” His carefree grin was almost contagious. The thought of sweet things to eat made Slayd’s stomach growl.
“All right, but we shouldn’t stay very long. I don’t want Guile to get angry.”
Jyrr beamed amiably at him. “Of course.”