Getting to Know Your Friends Can Teach You Things about Yourself
“So we kill Jocelyn’s son and take his stone,” the Sea King said, dishes clinking. “And then what?”
“There’s no ‘and then what,’” Sam said. “We’ll plan the next step after accomplishing this one.”
“That seems shortsighted and foolish,” the Sea King said. Sam wished he had a name.
“It’s not,” Henry told him calmly. He had a lot more patience for the Sea King’s arrogance than Sam did. “It’s wise. There’s no point in planning more than two or three steps in advance—hell, there’s not much point in planning past the first step. Plans are nice, but they never go like you want them to. So we kill Jocelyn’s son and take the stone, and then we figure out what to do after that. If we decide now, we’ll just end up changing our minds in a week.”
“For example,” Sam said, grateful that Henry had put that into words for him. “There’s a very good possibility that after we kill Jocelyn’s son, we’ll have to kill Jocelyn as well.”
“Hm. Is that so?”
“It will depend,” Sam said, “on whether she chooses to betray us while he’s here. She wants to, but we’ll find out if she’s stupid enough to try with you and Scott here.”
“Ah,” the Sea King said, laughing a little. “You assume that Scott and I won’t be on her side, I see.”
“Oh, please,” Sam said, spearing some meat and putting it in his mouth. He chewed, swallowed, before speaking. “If you’re going to make idle threats, at least don’t make stupid ones. Scott’s only your ally because of me, and Jocelyn has no motivation to help you rid yourself of the shadow creature. Kill me and you’re ensuring that you’re enslaved to that thing for the rest of your life. How old are you, anyway?” Henry said that the Sea King’s body was no older than him, but Sam doubted that the creature inside the body was Henry’s age.
“I am ancient as the seas,” the Sea King said, his voice echoing with waves.
“Sure you are.” As if Sam had the patience for this. “If that were true, you wouldn’t need my help to kill a shadow.”
The Sea King’s power fluctuated for a second, but Sam pushed back against it. The table rattled. It was just posturing; neither of them really wanted to fight. The Sea King knew he would lose. Besides, they were friends. “It is…difficult to say,” the Sea King admitted, after they’d stopped the little pushing contest. “I am something of an amalgam.”
“An amalgam of what?” Henry asked.
“Souls. I have memories of being an officer on a ship, of seizing it for myself and becoming the Sea King after harnessing the power of the seas. I also have memories of my family being slaughtered, of running from the man who did it and falling into the sea. I have memories of living under the waves, moving through water as a fish does. I have memories of being killed by an intruder, by a son, by a lover.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Sam said. Maybe the Sea King had been fucking his own son in a past life, but that didn’t sound like what he was saying.
“I am aware. Imagine being me and trying to live by it.”
Sam made a sound. “So you’re three different people, is that it?”
“I am the Sea King,” the Sea King said simply. “I am me, that is all.”
“Clearly not,” Sam said. “Fine, though. So you’re all of this and all you want is to rule over the ocean?”
“If you think that isn’t an ambitious goal, you’ve clearly no experience with the ocean,” the Sea King said. “It is massive, and powerful, and everyone who seeks to rule the world must cross it eventually.”
“Unless they can teleport or open portals,” Sam pointed out.
The Sea King just made a noise. “Most humans don’t have that power.”
“I’m just saying, I could take over the world without ever bothering you.”
“Fortunately you’ve no interest in taking over the world.”
“Don’t I?” Sam did not.
“If you did, you wouldn’t be ruling this little patch of mountain, Sorcerer King.”
Sam started to say something and stopped. “I think that was a compliment.”
“It was meant as one. Are you sure Jocelyn’s son will fall for the trap you’ve lain?”
Sam took a second to adjust to the change of topic. “Yes. Derek said that he wanted us to think he was worried about a trap.”
“He wanted you to think this?”
“The fact that he told Derek that means he wanted Derek to think he wasn’t. He wasn’t counting on Derek telling us exactly what he said,” Henry said. “He wants us to think he’s not worried because he’s trying to intimidate us.”
“Which means he’s hoping we won’t do anything because he knows he can’t stop it. Derek assured him we wanted him here in good faith.” Sam personally didn’t like all this double meaning and hiding behind half-truths, but Henry assured him he knew what it all meant.
“Do you believe him that stupid?”
“No,” Sam said. “He’ll try something. But it won’t matter. As soon as he steps through the portal he’ll be in a circle that will prevent his magic from working. Then we’ll kill him. You won’t even need to do anything unless Jocelyn interferes.”
“I hope that is the case,” the Sea King said. “I would rather not meddle in your affairs so.”
“And I’d rather settle them myself,” Sam agreed. “As long as we both agree about that.” He stood. “I should go. I have to hold court.”
“Until next time, Sorcerer King,” the Sea King said, as Henry opened the door.
“You as well, Sea King.” Sam paused. “Do you have an actual name? Or are you just the Sea King?”
The Sea King was silent for a moment. “I expect I had a name at some point. I fear I’ve forgotten it.”
“Hm,” Sam said. “Fine. If you think of something you’d rather I call you, just tell me.”
“The Sea King shall suffice. It is who I am.”
“Fine,” Sam repeated, and he left, disquieted. “How do you forget your own name?”
“By being three people? Or maybe by being immortal,” Henry said, sighing. “I don’t know.”
“I used to think power was worth anything,” Sam considered, wishing Henry would hold his hand or touch his shoulder.
“You don’t anymore?”
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to forget who I was. Would you?” he asked, turning his head towards Henry. “Would you accept power even if you had to forget yourself?”
Now Henry took Sam’s hand, and he kissed it. “I already did.”
“Right,” Sam muttered. That didn’t make him feel better. “Someone better have committed a crime, I’m in the mood to execute someone.”
“We’ve captured a few rebel sympathizers, how’s that?”
“Perfect,” Sam said, heading for his throne. “The day’s looking up.”