Lord Nycteus yawned as he sliced open his pomegranate. “Really,” he said to the young man seated opposite him, “I think you’ll find work here at Mount Cthonique is quite easy.”
“If you can live without hope of glory and renown,” snapped the young man.
Nycetus rolled his eyes as he scooped out some seeds. “I think you will find, Cheimarrhus, that one can quite easily do that, just as dying in the possession of those two items.”
Cheimarrhus glared at his superior. “At least it’s a death with honor! I will rust here, I know it!”
“Better to rust then to hang,” said Nycetus, chewing his pomegranate seeds. “That young woman you carried on with was a Princess of the Blood, after all.”
“If every boy who ‘carried on’ with Princess Nebthet got disgraced, the court would be empty,” snapped Cheimarrhus.
“True, true, very true,” said Nycetus, swallowing. “That’s why it is limited to those who get caught.” His eyes narrowed. “And even then, a special disgrace is reserved for those who displeased the lady…” Cheimarrhus glanced away, muttering angrily. “But I am misunderstood. I do not mean to cast blame, and throw aspersions around. No, I merely trying to make it clear that life here is not so unpleasant, if you are willing to… make the effort to enjoy it.”
Cheimarrhus glanced at Nycetus’ substantial gut. “Well, I can see that you’ve managed to follow your own advice…” he muttere
Nycetus gave his stomach a hearty slap. “Indeed! Why, I myself am a living exemplar of what I preach, and thus prove its validity!” He leaned forward. “And that is why you would be wise to listen to me, my lad.”
Cheirmarrhus stood up, and walked across the room. He stuck his head out the window. “Oy! Toad! Saddle my horse! I’ve a mind to ride!”
The hunchback sitting in the courtyard below looked up with his misshapen head. “Of course, great sir. Of course! I will do so--do so immediately, yes!” He rose unsteadily.
Cheirmarrhus watched him placidly. “Well?” he said at length. “Don’t simply say you’ll do it--do it! Hop to it, Toad! Hop to it!”
Toad had reached his feet, and began to walk in the shuffling manner of a man with a clubfoot. “Ha! Ha! Very clever, good sir! Very clever! ‘Hop to it’! Ha!” As the young noble watched, the slave shuffled away towards the stables.
Cheirmarrhus turned to his superior. “Is there a reason that creeping creature wasn’t exposed at birth?”
“Oh, he has his uses,” said Nycetus with a smile. “After all--who else would we have to take care of your horse if the Toad weren’t here?” He scooped out some more pomegranate seeds, a grin appearing on his broad face. “Believe me, lad, I have run this mine for many long years, and what those years have taught me is that everyone has its use.” A peal of trumpets was heard in the distance. Nycetus chuckled. “Hello! It looks like the latest shipment has come in down the road.” Nycetus crammed the seeds into his mouth, and began to noisily chew. “Do be a good lad, and meet them for me, won’t you?”
“But… my ride!” gasped Cheirmarrhus, eyes wide with disappointment.
“Will have to be put off,” said Nycetus.
“Can’t you go meet them yourself?” muttered Cheirmarrhus.
“No,” replied Nycetus calmly. “Firstly, I am eating my pomegranate. Secondly, I am your commander. Thirdly, I am your commander, who is eating a pomegranate and who wishes you to get moving right now.” Cheirmarrhus stared at him, dumbfounded. “Well? Aren’t you going to move?” Cheirmarrhus rose, swiftly from his chair and bolted to the stairs.
When he reached the courtyard, Toad was waiting for him with his horse. “Ahh, great sir,” said the hunchback, limping forward. “Young Silili, she is as eager to ride as you are, great--”
Cheirmarrhus hand darted forward, and gave the slave two slaps. “Return her to the stables, worm!”
Toad nodded. “Of course--of course, great sir. Sorry if I offended--so sorry!” As Cheirmarrhus watched, he turned and limped back to the stables, Silili following him.
Cheirmarrhus shook his head, and stormed off for the gates to look at this latest lot of slaves. As he did so, he wondered if anybody at Mount Cthonique was as unfortunate as him. Somehow, he thought not.