Chapter Seven

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Thesul leaned back in his seat and scrutinized Guin for a moment, as if she was a particularly troublesome puzzle he was trying to work out in his head.

"I suppose I'd best begin at the beginning," he said at last, long fingers toying with the stem of his glass.

"Start wherever you want. I don't have much choice but to sit here, do I?" she asked, glaring.

Thesul shrugged. Guin shrugged back, making the small gesture as belligerent as she could. The man had done a lot of talking already, and she was still no closer to understanding exactly what the hell he wanted.

I want nothing from you, Guin...

She swallowed, forcing herself to sit still. Let him talk. It didn't make a bit of difference. She wasn't going to end up trusting him even if he talked for a thousand years.

Thesul lifted the glass to his lips, paused, then placed it back on the table without drinking. 

"Hmm. Well. In abbreviated terms, when this land first began, it was a simple place. The Sorcerer desired a paradise, you see. He saw beauty in simplicity. But a land needs inhabitants, just as a king needs subjects to rule, and in those days, Ther was empty. So the Sorcerer created a race of beings known as the Niälla to help him to build a perfect world.

"Unfortunately, after this wonderful construct was completed, the king of the Niälla grew rather quarrelsome. He argued he deserved half of Ther's dominion. The Sorcerer, in his wisdom, declined that request. There can be only one true dominant being, after all, and the Sorcerer was the original Creator. But the Niällan king wasn't satisfied with his lot, though the Sorcerer was more than generous with him and his kind. And so, the troublesome creatures decided to wage war on their god. That was a mistake."

Thesul paused to take a sip from his goblet. He smacked his lips and dabbed at his mouth with a lacy napkin, then continued, "It didn't end well for the Niälla. The Sorcerer defeated them easily. As punishment for their transgression, he doomed them to be entombed forevermore in the very soil they had helped to create. As a precaution, he took measures to contain the Niällan king's wife as well. That was an age ago. They are no doubt long since dead..."

"Then why does any of what you've just told me even matter?" Guin asked, doing her best to keep her expression neutral. She wasn't about to tell him about her her time in the tunnels with the rotting king and his decrepit minions, or her near-drowning in deep, dark water with the silver-haired woman who claimed to be his wife—and now haunted her nightmares. Whatever else the Niälla were, they weren't dead—at least, not totally dead.

Thesul smiled indulgently. "It matters because that ancient struggle with the Firstsung taught the Sorcerer a very valuable lesson."

"And what was that?" Guin asked.

Thesul picked up his goblet and gently swirled its contents. "He learned a lesson about power, Guin. It's a precious commodity. One cannot simply scatter it about like rain. It must be kept safe, guarded by those who can be trusted—in the hands of those who truly deserve it."

Guin raised an eyebrow. "Uh-huh. Yeah. And I think I can guess whose hands you think it should be kept 'safe' in."

Thesul chuckled. "I will not deny that I believe myself to be ruler of this land by right, Guin. But that is getting ahead of my tale. You're assembling a picture without all the necessary pieces."

"Get on with it, then." Guin leaned back, crossed her arms and recommenced glaring.

Thesul continued to swirl the liquid in his glass as he resumed his monologue.

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