Someone was speaking in a strange language. Sed awoke abruptly. “What the fuck!?!” he cried at the strange scene around him, blinking away the sleep in his eyes. Holy shit, must still be dreaming. He sat up, closed his eyes, and slapped himself on the face. But the jabbering around him continued, and when he opened his eyes, the strangers were still there.
He was on the floor of the most opulent room he had ever been inside – it made him recall a junior high school field trip to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Tapestries adorned every wall, depicting scenes of vast armies and sailing ships at sea. What looked like an antique sofa was right behind him, and in front of him stood several anxious looking men and women, talking amongst themselves and pointing at Sed. They were dressed like no one he had ever seen, except perhaps at a Mardi Gras parade. One silent man wore what looked like medieval chain mail and stood apart from the rest. Another man, who appeared to be completely hairless, sported loose grey trousers and a colorful, checkered tunic open to the belly, with complicated designs drawn or tattooed on his chest. The other three men wore what he could only describe as green togas, which were draped and folded in some cunning manner such that they almost appeared as fitted garments. The two women were dressed in colorful, flowing dresses that flashed translucent, filmy fabric as they moved, but nothing that appeared revealing when they stood still.
Sed started to get to his feet before realizing he was only wearing his boxers, and shifted into a more modest crouch. “Where am I?” he said softly.
All eyes turned to him. “Kel leet tona sti-un!” snapped a balding, toga-wearing man, the oldest, at another. Someone scampered away and returned moments later with the nicest bathrobe – pale blue silk fringed with gold – that Sedrick had ever seen. The balding men bowed slightly and held it out to him, softly repeating a few strange words.
“Thank you.” Sed accepted the ornate robe, stood up, and donned it, finding a nifty clasp that held it shut at the waist. “Now, where am I?”
The balding man said something to one of the women before turning back to Sed. “You speak the eastern tongue, Lord Interpreter?”
“Interpreter? No, I speak English.”
The man mumbled something else to the woman beside him. “I do not know this ‘anglish’, but I can see that we can converse in this tongue.” The man gestured with open arms. “Please sit, my Lord. Forgive me, but you are the Lord Interpreter, are you not?”
Interpreter?This has got to be the weirdest fucking dream I’ve ever had. He sat on the sofa. “Where am I?” he asked the balding man.
“The Green Palace in Tapaniul, my Lord. We offer our humblest apologies at your abrupt awakening. Can we offer you any refreshment, or anything to make you more comfortable?”
Sed’s eyes bulged. Holy shit…the Green Palace? The seat of her majesty, the Just Queen Illana Olajj? “You can’t be fucking serious!”
The bald man jerked back as if he was struck and quickly bowed. “All apologies, my Lord Interpreter.”
Interpreter, again? What is that? The title did not ring a bell at all. Sed narrowed his eyes, suddenly aware that he appeared to have some power here. “What is your name?” he asked flatly.
“I am NaVek Reeskel, my Lord. I have the honor of serving-“
“The Mistress of Subsarra, Lady of Tapaniul, and the Just Queen of all the Cracked Lands, Her Ascendance Illana Olajj.” Sed finished for him, shaking his head to himself. Holy fucking shit. NaVek Tohn Reeskel, Chief advisor and regent to the Just Queen, second in power in the Cracked Lands only to Illana herself. He smiled in spite of his continuing shock, and Reeskel smiled back at him. “If you’re Reeskel,” Sedrick continued, shifting his gaze to the others in the room, “then one of you must be NaKira Vool.” One woman nodded and grinned, showing no surprise whatsoever. She was short, slender, with pale skin and dark hair, and had a very youthful face. In fact, she could pass for Sed’s age. Just the kind of woman few would suspect as Illana’s Spymistress. “And if you’re Vool, then you must be…” Sed searched his memory as he looked at the other toga-clad man, the one who had retrieved the robe. “Manchi,” he said. He spoke without thinking. “NaKir Manchi. Of course, the traitor.” In one of The Skulker’s chapters in the second book of the series, the enigmatic freelance spy had learned that NaKir Manchi was covertly supplying information about the Queen's comings and goings to a group of wealthy nobles and merchants who secretly opposed Illana’s fledgling rule over the Cracked Lands.
When the words left his mouth, Manchi, Castellan of the Green Palace, bowed his lanky, bird-like frame, but Reeskel looked shocked, and Vool had the barest grin on her face. The other woman, whom Sed had identified as the Just Queen's handmaid and confidante, NaKira Lexa, appeared dumbstruck. He realized what he had just said and clapped a hand over his mouth. Not everyone understands ‘the Eastern tongue’, apparently. Reeskel barked something in what could only be Elithian, the main language of this part of the world, and Manchi turned white as a sheet. The Castellan stumbled as if he was making a move to flee, but the others moved faster, and the armored guard quickly had him in custody.
Sedrick laughed openly. “What an awesome fucking dream this is!”
NaVek Reeskel called out to the passageway, and two more armed men dragged NaKir Manchi away, skinny legs flopping uselessly. “How did you know?” asked the queen’s regent.
Sed made his best effort at a cryptic smile, recalling what Reeskel had called him earlier. “Because I am the Interpreter. I, er, interpreted it.”
“Ahh, so you are the Interpreter. Excellent, my Lord.” The NaVek still had an odd look on his face for just a moment.
“Am I, uhh, not what you expected, NaVek?” asked Sed.
“We did not know what to expect, my Lord. The Sacred Annals do not describe your, er, appearance, my Lord.”
Sed noticed Reeskel's eyes flash momentarily to his bare forearm, and he barked a laugh. “So you didn't think I'd be black.”
Reeskel blinked. “Well, my Lord... I have met residents of the Sand Kingdom before on the Jots, and the Rainforest Chiefs of Dagohar–”
Sed waved it away. “Doesn't matter. No big deal, NaVek.” Gotta speak more formally. The mention of the Rainforest Chiefs perked his interest, though – he knew that the southernmost island of the Cracked Lands was called Dagohar, but so far the books had been silent on that isle's population.
Reeskel, notably relieved, changed the subject. “What, my Lord, if I may ask, is the extent of Manchi's treachery?”
“It’s not so bad. He was just feeding bits and pieces, whatever gossip he learned around here, to the True Greens.”
At this name, NaKira Vool showed the first bit of surprise on her face. That’s right… the True Greens haven’t revealed themselves yet. He got the impression that the spymistress, Vool, at least had some awareness of the group, though.
“My Lord Interpreter, what can you tell us-” Sed brushed off Reeskel’s next question, glancing at the others in the room. He was confident that the trouser-and-tunic clad man was Illana’s powerful sorcerer from the West, NaKir Cho Kama, who was holding a quiet conversation with NaKira Lexa.
“Never mind that, NaVek. Why am I here?” Sed realized that, awake or not, he was enjoying himself immensely.
“Of course, my Lord.” Sed was growing a bit weary of the NaVek's constant bowing. “Her Ascendance the Just Queen has ordered it. You will meet her shortly, if it pleases you.”
Sed did his best to hold in his excitement. Logically he knew this must be a dream, but it certainly felt as real as anything he had ever experienced. Well, might as well play along and enjoy it while it lasts. “It pleases me, NaVek.”
Reeskel smiled and clapped his hands together. “Excellent. Her Ascendance is resting at the moment; it was a great trial for her to bring you here. In the mean time-”
“Wait a second,” interrupted Sed. “How exactly did she bring me here?”
Reeskel nervously glanced at the sorcerer Cho Kama. “I'm not privy, My Lord, to the intricacies of all the Manipulations of Her Ascendance. Please allow me to consult the Queen's, er, advisor.” The NaVek turned to Cho Kama and they had a brief discussion. He turned back to Sed. “I'm afraid I'm not able to translate. Please forgive me, My Lord. Perhaps Her Ascendance will be more... coherent. In the meantime, please avail yourself of the comforts of the Green Palace.”
Two serving women entered, young and old. “It has been a great honor, my Lord Interpreter,” said NaVek Reeskel. “Truly, I have seen many amazing things since I began serving the Just Queen, but meeting the Great Chronicler’s Interpreter has been the most glorious of all.” The NaVek bowed deeply, and departed with all but the two servants.
Great Chronicler? Sedrick searched his considerable memory of the first two books in ‘Those Accursed Chronicles’. That’s right… Illana and others in the Cracked Lands worship the god called the Great Chronicler, who writes down everything that happens in a huge book, or something. He did not remember any mention of the Great Chronicler’s Interpreter, though. I’ll have to ask Paul about that. He recalled exactly where he was at the moment and shrugged his shoulders. If I ever wake up at home, that is…