King Gheraldio Iniagus XXVII
The ruler of Wenapaj sat cross-legged on his throne with his eyes closed, his hands playing ever so slightly with strands of the web open which he sat. I would have thought he was meditating if I hadn’t noticed a thin trail of drool sliding down from the corner of his mouth. His massive fiery red mustache twitched a few times, always followed by a soft snore.
I must admit that I was somewhat taken aback by his appearance. He may have still been wearing the royal robes, but other than that it was almost as though he were a different person. He certainly hadn’t had a purple mohawk during my prior visit. Still, it had been a long time since I had seen the king. Some differences were to be expected, I reasoned silently to myself.
“That’s the man in charge of Wenapaj?” Arc asked Devon, not bothering to keep his voice down.
“Our liege and sovereign. He’s a great man.” Devon replied as the trail of drool dripped from Iniagus’s mouth and hit the floor, which let out a small chime with each drop.
Arc cocked his head to the side. “He’s … different than I was expecting.”
Iniagus abruptly leapt from his web, his regal robes whipping about his spinning body as he shot through the air with the force of a small cannonball. Arc and I both reflexively jumped backwards, startled by the sudden movement. Devon didn’t even flinch.
He landed perfectly behind us, and spun around to face us. Moments later, his crown (which had flown off in midair) landed perfectly on the tip of his Mohawk, spinning around it like a hula hoop before sliding down and settling crookedly on his head.
Pointing at me, he exclaimed in his oddly high-pitched voice, “Jimmy Sakamota!”
“Sir.” I said, coming to attention immediately.
He spun around again and pointed at Arc. “Luminous Skylad!”
“Don’t call-” Arc froze at a glare from Devon. Letting out a cough, the young researcher said, “Er, it’s just Arc, if it please your Majesty.”
The king dashed past us to his throne and hopped into the center of his web. He bounced in the air a few times before finally setting back into his original position.
In a flat voice, Iniagus asked, “And why have you come here?”
The way he drew out the word ‘why’ I said, “Your Majesty, we came to Yesrej to-”
“Yesrej.” When Iniagus continued to stare blankly at me, I added, “This city? The capitol of Wenapaj?”
“Yesrej, Yesrej …” He muttered, scratching his chin. Snapping his fingers, he said triumphantly, “Oh, of course! But really, Jimmy, Yesrej was the old capital name. It was dull, boring, and totally not what such a magnificent city deserves! That’s why I changed the name to Iniagusville two years ago! Isn’t that a much more splendiferous name?”
Confused but careful not to show it, I bowed my head and continued, “Of course, your Majesty. We came to Iniagusville in answer to your summons.”
“Right, of course! The summons! I am of course glad you two could find time to come and visit me on such short notice. Overjoyed! Enraptured! DEVON!”
Devon saluted. “Your Majesty?”
“You have done well. You may go to the kitchens and have a royal cookie.”
“Thank you, your Majesty.” Devon nodded at Arc and me before making an about face and marching out of the throne room.
“Well, well, well.” Iniagus said softly, resting his head on top of his interlaced fingers.
He looked us both over in silence for a few moments. I remained still; Arc shifted slightly, looking uncomfortable.
“Well, well, well.” Iniagus repeated, his eyes starting to bulge slightly out of their sockets.
Arc and I exchanged glances. I could tell that Iniagus’s behavior was starting to freak Arc out too.
“Well, well, well, well, well, well, well-” His Highness said, sounding as though he had no intention of stopping.
With another look at Arc, I said, “Pardon me, sir-”
“Shh!” Iniagus held a finger to his lips. Staying completely still otherwise, his eyes began to dart around the room. Slowly, his head tilted until it was roughly forty-five degrees to the right. His other hand, the one not held to his lips, cupped and moved around his ear. I found myself wishing I had bought a camera, though taking a picture of the king would probably have been frowned upon.
“Listen!” he breathed so softly that I could only just make out what he had said.
I listened, but apart from the gentle sound of rushing air from cooling vents above our heads, I heard nothing.
After a few minutes, I realized that Iniagus was silently mouthing words at us. I watched, strangely fascinated, as he slowly tilted his head to the other side and back again, his mouth moving the whole time. He continued his quiet pantomime a bit longer before suddenly clapping his hands together and sitting up straight.
“Right then!” He exclaimed in a loud voice that seemed strangely jarring after the prolonged silence, “Before you go-”
“Huh?” Arc said, “Go where?”
“’Go where’? What do you mean ‘go where’? What have I been talking about all this time? Weren’t you listening?!” Iniagus sighed, and rubbed his temples, “Oh, very well. Have a seat, and I’ll start over.”
Two chairs appeared behind us. Arc and I moved to sit down, only to fall through them. Slightly discordant tones shot through the air as our respective rumps hit the crystallic tiles.
As Iniagus roared with laughter, I seriously considered the possibility that the man was insane. It would have answered quite a few questions at that point. Still, the politeness and protocol that had been ingrained into my mind combined with years of mental training kept me from doing anything that I might later regret. I started to rise to my feet, but thought better of it and simply crossed my legs as though I were about to meditate.
Arc prodded the chair, which seemed perfectly solid until he tried to sit down again. After he fell again, making our king laugh all the harder, Arc let out a snort and sat on the floor beside me.
The king clapped his hands together again. “Well, that was certainly droll. Anyway, so like I was saying, a wave of evil is sweeping over the land, and-”
“I beg your pardon?” I said, the alarm caused by his previous statement jarring me from my silence. “A wave of evil?”
“Yes, evil! The darkness of soul, the spirit of the night, the humpety bumpeties of nocturne alley, the-”
“We get the idea.” Arc said irritably. “What do you mean it’s sweeping over the land?”
The King sighed, and put the back of his hand against his forehead. “The youth of today are so impatient. We were never so impolite when I was a wee mustachioed lad. Why in my day, we’d …”
I waited silently as he rambled on about young people, much to Arc’s chagrin. A mental image of a young Iniagus had formed in my mind, bearing the same ridiculous mustache. I was still trying to keep myself from laughing about it when Iniagus brought his little rant to an end with a small yet poignant cough.
“Evil is coming!” He leaned forward on his hands, and looked at us expectantly. “Don’t you fine fellows feel it? The Evil?”
The way he annunciated the ‘E’ in evil with such a devilish grin on his face nearly made me lose control. A laugh started to slip out, so I coughed in hopes of stopping it and managed to inhale a bit of my saliva.
As I broke into a fit of coughing, Iniagus leapt to his feet with a look of horror on his face. “By the great king Iniagus, may he live forever and have lots of cookies and candy and a kiss from mommy every night! The Evil’s got Jimmy already!”
I waved him off, barely managing to say “My apologies. I had something in my throat. You were saying, Majesty?”
Looking relieved, he sat back down on his throne again. “Thank goodness … huh? Oh yes, the Evil. Well, it’s approaching on the down low, slowly stealing over the land like a plague of locusts and devouring the goodness that is Wenapaj. You see my lads, since ancient times, there has been an equally ancient prophecy foretelling our possible doom.”
In a deep tone and a completely different accent, he droned, “When chaos is the only order of the land, the Evil will arise, and only the chosen one can restore the light.”
“Whoa!” Arc murmured, looking awestruck. He had apparently forgotten Iniagus’s previous behavior.
I was less impressed; his ‘prophecy’ sounded like something from an old fantasy role-playing game.
A grave expression on his face, Iniagus said, “If nothing is done, I fear that everything that is good will be destroyed.”
“All of Vinta, Sire?” I asked, trying to keep skepticism out of my voice. Considering everything else I was keeping myself from doing, this was no mean feat.
Iniagus seemed surprised by my question. “Huh? Vinta? Oh yes, all of Vinta will fall eventually, but for now …”
He leapt out of his chair, grabbed my shoulders and started shaking me as he screamed, “We’re in danger! Us! Wenapaj! That means that I am in danger! Me! I’m too pretty to die! And so young! It’s just not fair, Jimmy!”
I wasn’t sure how to respond; I had spent years mastering control over myself, but that control seemed to be slipping away the longer I remained exposed to the madness that was King Iniagus. It was invigorating in a strange sort of way, even though my arms were starting to hurt from Iniagus’s surprisingly strong grip.
Thankfully, he seemed to remember himself a few moments alter and let me go. Pacing in front of us, he said in a more dignified tone, “Ahem. Of course, you are right. It is the world that is in danger.” A mad grin crossing his face, he added, “All the more reason for us to stop it, because … well …”
“Because as the pinnacle of civilization on Vinta, it’s our job to protect all the weaker countries from this menace.” Arc said instantly, suddenly sounding enthusiastic.
Arc bristled at the sound of his name. “Don’t call me that! My name’s Arc!”
“Begging your pardon,” I said, considering my words carefully, “but if the threat is as bad as you say, why did you call us? I can’t speak for Arc, but I’ve had no actual combat experience. Surely, the Wenapaj army would be better equipped to …” An unpleasant thought occurred to me. “We do have an army, right?”
“Of course we have an army! You’re a member of it yourself: the Royal Guard! As for your other concern, you are quite correct.” He rushed over to me again, this time staring me straight in the eyes. “But you’re also completely wrong!”
“Everyone knows that it’s not armies that defeat true evil, but …” he paused for dramatic effect, “The Chosen One!”
He looked at us expectantly. I looked at Arc and was relieved to see that he was just as confused as me.
We both looked back to the king, asking simultaneously, “The Chosen One?”
King Iniagus strode forward and put an arm around our respective shoulders. Huddling down, he said in a quiet voice, “My lads. Listen close, for what I am about to tell you is top secret, and most verily important.”
Without warning, Iniagus straightened up and sang at the top of his lungs:
Some day you’ll be as old as me
(a trifle more than fifty-three),
and that’s when you will learn the truth:
that evil things are quite uncouth
I know, my lads that this is strange;
it’d take a man who’s most deranged
to think that evil things are cool
and that the darkness really rules
Reiterate, I must this day
that evil things must go away!
But how to make the darkness pass?
Just wait around? That’s quite a gas.
No, heroes are what we would need
to banish all this evil breed:
a man or woman strong of heart
and one who’s skilled with magic art
He fights for fame, she fights for land
and for their dear beloved’s hand
When darkness falls, and they have won,
a wedding next; isn’t that fun?
So now, dear friends, know one must stand
against the evil in our land.
Now get yourselves out of my hair!
Go out and face the darkness there!