(When we left off, our hero was dead! Well. Basically.)
(He got better.)
I awoke groggily, feeling at my neck.
Damn it! It had left a scar!
Well... it wasn't so bad. When and if I ever made it back to civilized society, I would have to order my servants to outfit my wardrobe with some very high collars. Until then, it wouldn't matter. Where was a gentleman to find a lady worth impressing out here?
I opened my eyes.
Zeus strike me down! She was ravishing!
And... pinning my legs while holding a knife to my throat.
Our relationship could only move up from here!
"He's alive!" she shouted to someone outside the (house? hut?) I found myself in. "And he's moving! Please, come quickly!"
"Am I really so exciting as that?" I asked, using my inborn Gaylord charm to its greatest effect. "But of course, I suppose there mustn't be all that much going on in a backwater like this. Here - we haven't been properly introduced. I am Karl, direct heir to the Gaylord line. What's your name?" I smiled and tried to sit up.
She cut my throat! That minx!
"Aarghlblhhrghl!" I gurgled and lay back again. My vision turned grey; then, slowly, my Blood clotted and sealed the wound. Within a minute's time, my windpipe was sealed, and I was once more prepared for conversation.
Sadly, by then, the company the young lady had called for arrived, so there was no opportunity for me to get to know her better in private. Pity. She may have cut my throat, but her features were exquisite, and - as the blood gushed from my throat - I fancied I saw a rush of compassion to those doe-like eyes.
Ah - but I grew distracted. The others were speaking to me. Or about me. They didn't seem to like me very much at all.
...that would explain all the throat-cutting, I suppose.
"...then cut down the tree, cover it with brush, and burn it with him still nailed to it," a middle-aged woman said. She illustrated her point with hand gestures. "That'll finish the demon for certain."
"Too risky," a grey-bearded man argued. "What if he draws strength from the fire - like, you know, a demon? We should just do what I've been saying since the beginning - tie him to a sack of rocks and throw him over the edge. Best case, he dies, and at worst, he's definitely not our problem any more."
"You say that's less risky?" the woman argued. "What if he gets free and works his way back here? Who knows what he could do if set loose?"
Several other people were crammed into the small room, but none of them were making any move to intervene in the argument. (Most of them were just holding spears or swords, actually. An honor guard - for me? No less than I deserved, really.) Since it seemed no-one else was going to, I felt the need to speak up in my own defense. Couldn't have these people calling the scion of the Gaylord clan a demon, after all. (Except at cards!)
"What would I do if set loose?" I asked rhetorically. "Probably make witty conversation and charm the ladies, I suppose. That's my usual practice. I can make special exceptions as the need arises, of course."
The argument stopped.
"Cut his throat, Sara!" the old woman ordered.
"No!" I said. I was very sick of having my throat cut.
The old man agreed. "Not yet," he countermanded. "I want to hear what he has to say. Why have you come to us, homonoculus?"
I was impressed with his vocabulary, if not his grasp of the situation.
"You think I'm some kind of - magical construct?" I asked. "Nothing could be further from the truth - "
"You regenerate from wounds that would kill any man," the old woman spat. "Your blood is thick and dark, nearly black. And you come from the Isle of Circe."
You know, I really liked her when I first met her! Before I discovered that she wasn't actually a little girl and was, in fact, (a) possessed of powers beyond my comprehension and (b) really creepy. And now she was causing me more trouble!
Well, I could sort this out.
"I understand why you'd be confused, but I'm no servant of Circe," I explained, trying to spread my arms for emphasis. Someone had bound them with ropes. Rude! "Quite the opposite, in fact. I arrived on your fellow's raft - I assume he was yours? - in the process of fleeing Circe."
"So, you claim you're an escaped servant of Circe, a homonoculus gone renegade?" one of the previously-silent onlookers asked. He was tall and slim, and bore a circlet about his forehead - some tribal chieftain?
"Improbable," the old woman said. "A transparent ruse."
The old man nodded his head in agreement.
"But - that's not what I was saying at all!" I protested. These people were terrible at communicating! "I am neither present nor past servant of Circe - I arrived at her isle while travelling from the Gaylord lands, my rightful estate, and passed through within a day's time! My Blood Gift is not the result of some dark-brewed witchery, but my rightful inheritance as a Gaylord, as it has been since time immemorial!"
The old man, old woman, and circlet-bearer exchanged meaningful glances. Meaning that was, sadly, concealed from me, being still pinned onto the floor by the dazzling-but-nonetheless-inconvenient 'Sara'. But I was certain that it portended an improvement in my fortunes.
"So, if we let you loose, you would do what, again?" the chieftain asked.
"I would stretch my legs, first," I said, winking. "I think I'm losing circulation down there! Then... I'd walk around, talk to people, see the sights..."
"And later?" the chieftain pressed.
I thought. "Well, my homeland is still oppressed. So I'd probably exercise my natural right as a Gaylord, become your ruler - well, I'd do that regardless, I suppose - train you into an army, and drive back the invader." I smiled. "A glorious cause, no?"
"Cut his head off, Sara," the old woman ordered.
"What? No!" I protested. Why is it that these people were offended by every word that came out of my mouth? Was it something I'd eaten? "You! Old guy! Tell her not to!"
The old man considered. Sara paused.
"Would you like John to do it?" he asked. "You know from the livestock that cutting through the spinal cord can be quite tiring - "
"No, no, I'll be fine," Sara said. She positioned her knife.
"You guys suck," I said, devolving momentarily into petulance. "I don't want to rule you anyway."
They carried my severed head over to the edge of the island - some lovely views, but the Blood could barely maintain (blurry, colorless) sight through one eye, so they were rather lost on me - and tossed it over. My body followed after.
My consciousness faltered.
"So dies the last of the Gaylords," I thought to myself. "Killed by superstitious peasants."
But it was okay! (Kind of.) I didn't die quite yet!
I mean, I lost consciousness for a while, sure. Quite a while.
But when I woke up -
- you know the eternal storm at the heart of the world? (Everyone seems to have heard of it, though I'm not sure anyone had actually seen it, before me.)
It turns out there was something inside the storm!