by Den Valdron
“What?” I swore loudly. “Never!”
“Yes, yes,” he said. “You did. You clearly demanded sex with me.”
“I did not!”
“Yes you did, and in quite a vulgar fashion. And you claimed to be able to dance and sing. You boasted of your oral skills,” he insisted. “I think the words you used were ‘multifaceted performer.”
“Well...” oh right, “well... maybe a little.”
“And there was going to be ventriloquism!”
He squinted. Matlass Kay chuckled. I was beginning to loathe him, he was far too amiable and easygoing for my taste in villains. Chained to a rock for Sadoks would suit him.
“Didn't I have you put to death?” Heddo Lettus asked suspiciously.
“It's...” I tried to come up with something.
“On the other hand then, if I did, then it couldn't have been you. Here you are alive. It must have been some other crazed nymphomaniac.”
“But then, didn't you just now confess to being the self same, self styled Orovar Princess with the phantom army and slutty tendencies who did boldly demand sexual congress with my weary form, as if I, a busy and noble Jeddak with far too many demands upon me, had nothing better to do than satisfy the insatiable desires of freakish Orovar harlots.”
I opened my mouth, and then shut it again, blushing wildly.
“It is a mystery,” he said softly, “I can only assume that your insane sexual lusts have lured you back from the grave, that you might vent your wanton urges upon any that catch your fancy.”
He nodded. Satisfied.
“So where is it?”
“This phantom army that so terrified my Jed, Gyal Bohurs? Are you deaf as well as insatiable? Has your endless carnal adventuring stolen what little reason your kind has?”
I thought fast. This time, I really did have allies waiting in the distance.
“She has nothing,” Matlass Kay announced, “nothing but transparent lies, to deceive the foolish and unwary. We took all who accompanied them.”
Heddo Lettus peered doubtfully at Aspar Aguus Orgus companions and lieutenants kneeling before him.
“These?” He demanded. “You must be mad, Mattlass Kay, why they're as solid as you and me. I cannot see through a single one of them. And they appear to be Orgus as well. Why are they prisoners?”
“They accompanied Aspar Aguus and the Princess,” the villain replied smoothly, “and so I are in league with him.”
“Rubbish,” snorted the fat madman. “All Orgus are sworn to Heddo Lettus personally. I will not condemn a warrior for the crimes of his Jed. Aspar Aguus, are these men yours, sworn to you, and not me?”
“My lord,” called Aguus, “all Orgus are sworn to you. They have accompanied me in the belief that I did your will.”
“Hmmph,” rumbled the old broken tusked monster, his one good eye glaring at the kneeling warriors. “This will not do!”
He turned his attention back to Matlass Kay. “These are not phantoms. I asked after her phantom army. Where is it?”
“There is nothing,” Matlass Kay said, “nothing but lies.”
“She has reinforcements and a warship waiting beyond,” Aspar Aguus replied. “Touch her, and they will fall upon you and destroy you all.”
Oh not again! I wanted to go over and kick that stupid Orgus. Could he for once, just once, shut his mouth and not be helpful.
“Well,” said Heddo Lettus, “there you have it. Go and send a squad or two out to sort these phantoms, if you please, Matlass Kay. My personal guard will be sufficient, and I will be content to know that men I trust have attended.”
“No, my lord,” Matlass Kay said quickly, “no need to bother your personal guard. Their duties are more important than running after ghosts. I'll send another squad.”
Again, there was something odd about that exchange. The guards seemed to pay too much attention to Heddo Lettus, but did not defer. Instead, they'd seemed to glance at Matlass Kay, as if for confirmation.
With a sudden flash of insight, it came to me that Heddo Lettus was as much a prisoner here as Aspar Aguus or I. My stomach clenched at this thought. Heddo Lettus was clearly mad, but the mad could be manipulated. Matlass Kay? Against something like him, there was no hope at all.
Heddo Lettus then busily began to concern himself with interrogating Aspar Aguus’ men, badgering each of them to mumble their oaths of loyalty, and then freeing them. Man after man, stood up, had their weapons returned, offered their formal salutes, and withdrew to the edges of the amphitheatre.
What about the promise to get me out of here, you big tusked, hypocrites, I thought hard at them. But if any received my mental lashing, they gave no sign.
Eventually, all that was left were the handful of us. Heddo Lettus and his guards, I with mine, Aspar Aguus bound and held by henchmen, and the leering, grinning Matlass Kay.
“Now,” said Heddo Lettus, satisfied at last. Matlass Kay's good humour had faded a bit, he'd clearly tired of the Jeddak's meanderings, and gave signals. A guard prodded the Jeddak, who nodded.
I glanced around at the crowds. They must still be loyal to Heddo Lettus, or else why would Matlass Kay go through the charade of deferring to them. But then, why wouldn't Heddo Lettus simply denounce Matlass Kay? Surely the hundreds gathered around would quickly swarm their adversaries. Was it because Matlass Kay kept his men a mere throat cut away? Or was the relationship between the two more complex? My mind raced, somewhere in the relationship between them was an edge I could use.
“Now,” repeated Heddo Lettus, “let us consider the sins and crimes of Aspar Aguus.”
Matlass Kay grinned, his long awaited victim now in his clutches.
“Aspar Aguus,” Heddo Lettus intoned, “how you have shamed us all. Once, you were accorded among the greatest of my children, second only to one. How low have you fallen. Consorting with Thern priestesses, renegade demons, orovar Princesses, bandit queens, acolytes of forbidden weapons, and slutty nymphomaniacs.”
All of those were me, I realized, with a sinking feeling.
“We hear of you scavenging in dead cities, consorting with unsavory pirates, raising rebellion in the territories of our allies and brawling in the streets. Most unsavory.”
Heddo Lettus paused.
“And still, with my bountiful heart, I might forgive all as youthful high spirits. Except that you stand accused of breaking one of the high laws. Aspar Aguus, no Jed may kill another Jed. How do you plead?”
“Not yet,” Aguus replied.
“Excuse me?” Heddo Lettus asked, his voice full of wrath. “No playing games, your clever verbal frivolity is not welcome here!”
‘Clever verbal frivolity’? Was this the same Aguus I knew. But then, I thought, perhaps not. The Aguus I'd known had carried the burden of grief, while I was all unaware. What had he been like before.
“Did you, or did you not slay Konand Oyl, artist of the Jeds?”
“I did not, though with every fiber of my being, I wish that I had?”
“Come now, Aspar Aguus,” Heddo Lettus quibbled. “I cannot condemn you for intent, you must actually commit the act. If you did not slay Konand Oyl, who did? This little thing?”
He indicated me.
“Eep!” I went.
I hadn't actually killed Konand Oyl. It had been Ton Sabat that had sheared off his head. But I'd been responsible for the riot that had been going on.”
Heddo Lettus stared hard at me, followed by Matlass Kay, plainly astonished.
“Well,” I said in my defence, “not actually, like, you know, killed him myself. There was all this ... stuff going on, and there was a lot of fighting... It was sort of an accident.”
“His head was cut off,” one of the freed Orgus announced.
“Yes, but not by Aspar Aguus,” another called.
“It all began when Konand Oyl took that one prisoner, and then she said things... “
Okay, I thought. Stop helping, I mentally commanded. This was appalling. Where they all like Aspar Aguus? Endlessly gifted for saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment.
I cleared my throat, intending to take some command of the discussion.
“Well,” Heddo Lettus pontificated, “if Konand Oyl chooses to get his head chopped off by wandering nymphomaniacs, that's his business. Any may slay a Jed, if they are up to the task, even another Orgus. It is only a crime for a Jed to slay another Jed, for both are pledged to do my will. Never let it be said that the Great Jeddak meddles in the sexual proclivities of his children. It's no crime.”
“There are many other crimes,”
“I'm not a wandering nymphomaniac,” I protested.
“Princess,” Aspar Aguus said, “perhaps you shouldn't get into that discussion.”
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