Previously: After the meeting in the wobbly wine glass, Nadec goes to the throne room to talk to Patat. He isn’t there. Instead, her uncle and a zlurp manage to catch her, but he does give her 1 last chance to talk to the gorwak. However, they get interrupted by Wyny demanding what is going on.
Read all the previous chapters here.
ps: this is the real and raw first draft, including spelling and grammar mistakes, unnamed characters, awkward bits, … If you’d prefer to read a slightly better version, I can suggest going to the podcast section, where the transcripts are. Or you can read the complete 2nd draft version in it’s totality (hey, it’s over 70k words now, a proper novel, weeee!)
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‘My lord,’ Nadec heard Jodec say, while she tried to get her heart back in her chest, from where it had jumped in her throat. ‘My lord,’ Jodec repeated, ‘due to an emergency situation, we deemed it safer to move the gorwak out of the throne room.’
How did he manage to sound so composed and calm? Wyny’s arrival must have been as much a surprise to him as it was to Nadec.
‘I am not talking about the gorwak—although it would have been my next question. What is that zlurp doing here, in the castle?’
Nadec attempted to begin Skipping as they spoke, but the zlurp had sneakily goten closer and snatched the top of her head, holding her in place.
‘My lord, I—‘
‘Turn around, creature.’ Wyny spoke right over Jodec. ‘I am not precisely keen to see more of you, but I want to look at your face. I have met a creature like you before, and I am curious to see if you look ali—‘ His voice, sounding more inquisitive near the end, came to a dead stop.
The zlurp had obeyed Wyny and turned around. But it hadn’t let go of Nadec. As hers and Wyny’s eyes locked, she grinned at him, feeling sheepish. The massive hand on top of Nadec’s head made her feel even more self-conscious.
‘My lord, I can explain, this is the—‘
‘Be quiet.’ The command in Wyny’s voice impressed Nadec. Wyny glared at Jodec. ‘Klappah, is it not? I know who you truly are.’ It was very faint, but Jodec twitched at that. ‘You are part of The Order of the End. But you were also part of the ones who rescued me. I have been wondering if there is a connection between those two. Do not look so surprised, I have been enquiring about this ever since I had suspicions. Something tells me there is even more going on. I promise you, I will uncover it. I have been played the fool long enough. No more. Now tell me, why is a member of the End roaming my hallways in the middle of the night, with a zlurp and the rightful heir to the throne?’
Nadec had been struggling against the zlurp, trying to pry his hands away, shaking her head to loosen his grip, but to no avail. There was no budging it. If only she could break free, she might have enough time to Skip away. All thought of escape vanished for a few seconds after hearing Wyny call her the rightful heir. As an usurper, that was not what Nadec would expect him to call her. Did that mean…? No, she didn’t dare hope he was so much at her side as to be willing to relinquish the throne. Or was he? She snorted out loud at her own silliness. It wasn’t his throne anyway, he couldn’t relinquish what didn’t belong to him.
Both of the men stared at her. Balls. She shrugged and motioned to the top of her head with her eyes.
‘Mind telling your zlurp to let me go, J—huh—you? It’s getting a bit tight. Ouchies.’ She pulled a face. Inside she cringed at herself. Ouchies? Ouchies?? If she hadn’t already been wanting to leave, she definitely wanted to get away from the mortification she felt at that moment.
Jodec hesitated for a moment, but then gave the command to the zlurp. Nadec stumbled at the suddenness of which she had to keep her own balance again.
‘Dripping Klappah?’ Patat’s gruff voice sounded out. ‘You don’t know who he burning really is, do you, Pagewyn?’
Oh no, Nadec thought. She turned around to tell him not to say anything, but bumped against the zlurp’s big belly. It made her lose her balance and she teethered for a while before falling to the ground. She crawled through the zlurps legs, almost gagging at the stink of his six-toed feet. Her halberd must have shifted a bit, because it got stuck somewhere along the way. Without any more thought, she reached back and managed to release it, although she had to keep her arm back until she was beyond the zlurp. She snorted softly as she brought her arm forward, purposely extending the arc and putting more force in it. The butt of the halberd crashed into the balss of the zlurp with enough force to make the large creature double down and fall to his knees. She didn’t use the blade because for one: she didn’t want to get ball-stuff on her, and two: she felt reluctant to actually hurt the creature. She’d completely forgotten about it at the surprise of Patat’s absence in the throne room, and for some reason Jodec hadn’t taken it away. Perhaps he thought it hadn’t been much of a threat while the zlurp held her?
During the time all of that happened, Jodec had also yelled out to Patat not to say anything. Apparently he also did not want Wyny to know who he really was. Nadec wasn’t sure why she wanted to prevent that, but it felt right. Jodec had also taken steps closer to Patat, dodged the zlurp while he fell, and now stood almost next to Nadec.
‘Hah. Don’t tell him, ‘Tat. Please.’ Jodec sounded genuine in his pleading. Patat scrunched up his forehead, the question obvious in his face. ‘I can’t explain why it’s important, but it is, hah. Please.’
Nadec studied her uncle, with is missing fingers and the missing eye being the one half of his face she could see. He swirled his head to look at her in turn. A fraction of a moment, there seemed to be something between them. A mutual respect would be the best nadec could describe it.
‘What is going on here? Who is he then, gorwak?’
The frustrating plea from Wyny made them both blink. As one, they looked back at Patat, who murmured: ‘Burning fine.’
Jodec’s head turned back to make sure Wyny was still far enough. Nadec’s narrowed her eyes as he hurriedly began whispering to her.
‘Listen niece, I know we don’t have the same goals, but one thing we both want. We want ‘Tat safe, hah. I can’t free him because that would compromise my position and leave me with nothing. But you can. I heard your prophecy.’ Nadec didn’t care much for the amount of scorn he put in that word. ‘You plan to rescue him in two days. I surely don’t have any idea how you want to do that, but tell me truthfully, will you be able to?’
‘Is everyone merely going to ignore me?’
Steps brought Wyny’s voice closer to them. Nadec nodded and said: ‘Yes, I can. Ineed to practice Skipping and figure somet hings out, but I can.’
‘Hah, good. I trust you with his life.’ Jodec moved his head to look at Patat again, and almost immdeiately looked back at Nadec, hos brow furrowed. ‘I’ll help you with Skipping. My lord.’
Jodec gave a perfect bow towards Wyny, who now stood close enought for Nadec to touch if she outstretched her arm. His two guards moved in—to detain Nadec and take away her halberd, she supposed—but at a sign from Wyny they backed off. He regarded Jodec, his face unreadable. When his gaze went to Nadec, his expression softened. Jaws unclenched, his brows untightened, his lips became fuller.
‘Leave us.’ His head didn’t move, but his eyes did. When neither Jodec nor Nadec made a movement, he turned his whole body towards Jodec. ‘I will have a word with you tomorrow. Make certain my servants can find you. Now, leave me. And take your zlurp with you, I have many questions about that as well.’
The zlurp had fortunately already been able to set himsefl uprigth, and by a command of Jodec, he stood up and followed him, after Nadec’s uncle visibly swallowed a retort towards Wyny. Instead, he gave another bow, and left.
Wyny motioned to his guards to give hom more space. When they protested because of Nadec’s halberd, the calm in his voice sounded fragile and on the edge of breaking as he said: ‘I trust this person more than anyone else in this castle, perhaps more than anyone else in Hexago. She will not hurt me, and to be fair, she can more than likely protect me better than the two of you together.’
The guards moved back, but Nadec hardly saw as she worked hard on blinking away the treacherous tears. It wouldn’t do for him to find her crying. She turned towards Patat as Wyny turned towards her. A silence ruled for a while. Nadec kept on blinking, but to no avail. A few drops found their way down her cheeks.
‘So,’ she said, glad to hear her voice not betrayer, ‘this is quite something, isn’t it. What a messy situation.’ She choked out a laugh. It must’ve been on the side of the tears, because Wyny grabbed her shoulders and turned her towards her. Bloody treacherous body.
‘Why do you cry?’ The genuinity of the question—and sheer classic male ignorance—made her eyes tear up even more. Dear, poor, innocent man.
‘You trust me,’ she said, her voice thinner and more fragile than she’d have liked. She couldn’t make herself look into his eyes. ‘Even knowing who I am, what my bloodline is, what I can do to your position, you still trust me?’
‘Oh Nadec,’ for a second it seemed as if he wanted to hug her, but his eyes flickered towards the guards. ‘Of course I do. The time with you, even in the situation we were in, was the best I had in years, perhaps ever.’ He cleared his throat. ‘ I do not know if you feel it, but,’ he cleared his throat again, ‘from the first day I have felt something, perhaps a special connection to you. I have never felt that for anyone. I trust you with all my heart.’
‘That’s because we’ve both been naked in a forest together, silly, and have fought a monster and been in peril. That creates bonds. It doesn’t mean anything more.’ Balls, did she have to sound so petulant.
‘No, it is not that. But either way, enough about that.’ He let go of her shoulders, and Nadec took the opportunity to wipe her cheeks. At least those damn tears had stopped trickling out. Silly, silly man.
‘We have so much to talk about, but we can not do it here. This gorwak is your friend? I will need that story, as I do many others. No time now.’ Frustration got through his words and posture. ‘The ruckus of the builders woke me up—they managed to collapse a whole wall—enough to get up to investigate. It may have been partly my fault, I suppose, perhaps I should not have left them to their own.’
‘Talk to the woman,’ Nadec interjected, ‘she seems to be the better of the two.’ She chuckled. ‘But, to be fair, you should probably talk to me first, because without knowing how it works, your builders may not figure it out.’
He smiled back at her. ‘You are probably right. I can—no, I can not. None of this matters either way.’ He glanced at his guard, lowered his voice and leaned closer to her. ‘This castle belongs to you, not me. I will let the builders continue but it is merely a pretense. I want you to have what you deserve, your family right.’ He shook his head. ‘This is yours, not mine, and I am ready to relinquish it. But, as you already know, there are those who stand behind me, who forced me into this position too. They would never let me do what I want. I will do what I can do go against them. But you, you will have to stay alive. Please, Nadec, please stay alive. I need you to stay alive, and not only because the throne, which I never wanted in the first place, belongs to you.’ He lifted his hand, but halfway up to her face dropped it again. ‘You should have told me who you truly are when we first met, it may have made a difference.’
‘I didn’t know,’ Nadec whispered, blinking her treacherous eyes again while treasonous tears trickled down once more. Balls, she hadn’t cried as much in the last years as in the past few weeks. ‘I’ll stay alive, I promise. I should go now. Please take care of my friend. Patat, I’m so sorry for using you for my own gain, I could free you right now, just say the word.’
‘No kid,’ his black, liquid eyes held a tenderness she hadn’t seen before in him, ‘You burning do what you burning have to do. I dripping stand behind you. I also trust you with my grounding life. I will burning see you in a few days, don’t dripping worry about me.’
That was too much for Nadec. She flung her halberd on her back [make her do this earlier], she felt the uncontrollable sobs starts from deep within her. She wouldn’t release them, not yet, so she held her breath and bent though her knees. Her whispered thank you still hung in the air as she Skipped away.