(The Last Gaylord lives in interesting times. Let's talk about him more.)
(Where was he?)
(Oh, right. He'd just jumped off an island.)
(Let's see how that goes for him!)
Jumping blindly off the witch Circe's balcony had seemed to make perfect sense at the time, but in retrospect - I thought, accelerating slowly downward and outward with no land in sight - it may have been something of a poor idea.
I took off my battered shirt, tying it to my shoulders to make myself into an improvised kite. When my father's servants taught me this technique, pushing me off the deck on our ancestral island, there was always a raft waiting below for me to land on, and more waiting to move to rescue me if something went wrong. That - and the alarming whistling the wind was making as it whipped through the slashes recently cut in my shirt - made me feel somewhat less confident in the success of the maneuver than in past.
I ripped my mind away from morbid speculation, turning my attention to the clouds below me. They were thick, swirling - impenetrable. I could see nothing beneath them - I'd have to fall through them, and hope I spotted something once I was through. I sighed.
Now I was bored. (Of all things! - but yes. Falling to my death. And bored.) The only entertainment available was assigning shapes to clouds. So, I did.
That one, I decided, was a sword. A rapier, perhaps.
That one was clearly a staircase.
A set of ripples.
An elephant - though, of course, I'd only heard of them in stories, so I wasn't quite sure of the shape. (Elephants had two heads, right? Or was that cows?)
But - hm - that was odd. Those ripples were moving. Rippling, even.
There was something passing through that cloud! Something solid. Something I could land on!
I flexed my biceps, turned, drifted through the rippling cloud. I was falling ever faster now, and, for a long minute, I wasn't sure if I would make it (ah! And what an anticlimax that would be!); but then the moment of decision passed, and it became clear that I would. I made a series of small adjustments, trying to guide myself as close as possible to the head of the ripples; as I did, to my own surprise, I found myself baring my teeth in a wild grin. Entirely unbefitting the dignity of a scion of the Gaylord family, of course; but I didn't care. I shouted to the clouds and the wide empty sky: "O Chance, O Fate, you wild unruly bitch, I have tamed you at last - "
I struck the cloud - and the cold and dark and damp of it struck me like a blow, sliding between my ribcage and my heart!
That was odd. I saw no land, but I still seemed to have stopped.
I reached down, grasping with my hands in an attempt to gain some traction on the pole that was holding me in the air, and in so doing noticed the strange man cowering several feet below me.
"Hello!" I said, still in a good mood from that exhilarating descent. Something seemed wrong with my voice, wet - the ambient humidity, perhaps? (I was in a cloud, after all.) "Sorry to drop in on you so unexpectedly. Can you see what I'm stuck on?"
The mellifluous tones of my voice did not seem to be reassuring the poor man. Odd! I looked around to see why.
"Oh!" I said. "I'm on a raft! You're its pilot, and this thing I'm stuck on - must be the raft's mast! So - you're worried because I damaged it? (I think I can feel splinters poking into me.) Or..."
The raft's pilot was straightening now, but he still didn't seem to be any happier. To the contrary, he seemed to be terrified - and something else, something I couldn't read.
I was rather a long way from Gaylord lands, I realized. He probably wouldn't have seen the Blood Gift in action before. (Unless 'Circe' - no. She terrified me. Think about other things for now.) So - seeing the Blood Gift employed would probably be enough to inspire the poor man to supernatural horror.
What brought that thought to mind?
I looked down again. My view of the situation flipped, like the old picture of the lady and the crone.
I grasped again at the raft's mast, scrabbling upwards until my hand met my belly; my fingers came away covered in thick red blood.
Hm. This was a problem.
My Blood Gift would heal me, given time, but first I needed to remove myself from this crude pole on which I was so undignifiedly impaled. And to do this, I would need to enlist the pilot's help.
Easy! I would just need to employ my natural wit and charm.
"It's all right," I said, smiling benevolently down at the boat pilot. "I'm a Gaylord - by grace of God and Charter your rightful master. You don't need to worry about what's going to happen or what you should do. That's my job! Just help me down from this mast, and we can make repairs, sail back to your home, and I can start a new dynasty. In fact - if you do very, very well, I may be able to guarantee a nice wife for you once I get settled in!" I winked. "Got all that?"
God in the Distance, I hoped the dialect here hadn't drifted!
But - no. Ha! He was coming toward me, now, cautiously, but with decision in his eyes and a knife drawn to cut me down! The Gaylord Charm had won out after all. "Steady, now," I advised. "The shirt's past saving, but the breeches are of a finer cut than you'll find within two dozen islands of here. Steer clear of them!"
Indeed, when he raised his knife to cut, he aimed well clear of my breeches - but instead of untangling me from the wreck of his mast, he missed, and with abominable clumsiness cut my throat instead!
"Oaf!" I gurgled, my throat rapidly filling with blood. "Your carelessness has injured me more than the Exiles ever have!" I suspected most of that was rather unintelligible, owing to all the blood, and also my windpipe being newly open to air.
Still. To think I had come this far, through so much adversity and against such fierce foes, only for some ignorant peasant to (accidentally!) slit my throat! To think!
This would leave a very ungentlemanly sort of scar.