Gyderic found Lord Cerellis in the study, standing next to the map of Sigil. The half-celestial moved his gaze to him, and Gyderic found himself transfixed… time had eroded Cerellis’s face like a rocky shoreline, but his eyes still held the blue innocence of an infant’s. Gyderic felt like Cerellis was looking at his soul – this was not the old fool he’d seen in Haden’s mind.
“Do I know you?” asked the lord, in a tone which suggested he already knew the answer.
Still, if he’s more conscious than I expected, thought Gyderic, that might make my mission easier. Let us begin simply. “Where is Haden?”
“Don’t know,” Cerellis replied. “How did you get in here?”
“Your githzerai is useless.”
“Too true.” Cerellis moved from the map toward the desk to sit on its edge; Gyderic noted the greatsword resting against the wall behind the chair, its point lost in the lush carpet. “I hated to let Suinjes do his Unbroken Circle routine, but it was so important to him…”
“Where is your son?” Gyderic said, louder this time.
“I just told you I don’t know. Is something wrong with you?”
“No,” he replied through clenched teeth. Best not to agitate him – who knows what he’s capable of? “But I know that he and his friends were here yesterday. I know they’ve checked out of the inn where they’ve been staying.”
“Did you try at the Hands of Time? His elan acquaintance works there.” The inflection Cerellis placed on ‘acquaintance’ was unreadable. Was there something between Sheen and Haden? What did the old man know about it?
“No,” Gyderic snarled. “They weren’t there, either.” That, he thought, and the good Doctor has that place defended like a fortress.
“Or at the Circle? Their cleric stays there, redeeming the succubus that my father—”
“I tried there, as well. I’m afraid that I’ve lost my patience, milord.”
“Do you remember where you had it last?”
“WHERE IS HADEN!”
“I’m not deaf, friend. Perhaps you should look to your own ears, though, as this is the third time I’ve told you that I don’t know.”
“We’ll soon see about that,” Gyderic sneered, and his power surged forth to rake through Cerellis’s mind. To the psion’s surprise, the old man made no effort to resist – and Gyderic found no sign of the information he sought. “You really don’t know, do you?”
“Perhaps I’ve forgotten,” the half-celestial said with a slight ruffle of his feathered wings. “I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“You forgot – on purpose?! How is that possible?”
Cerellis turned the power of his gaze upon Gyderic again. “Because I will do whatever I must to protect what I hold dear. I wouldn’t expect a man like yourself to understand.”
“A man like myself,” Gyderic said, feeling strangely uncomfortable.
“Yes. You feel powerful, and you think you’re important, but there is no power or importance in harming others to get what you want.”
“Shut your bone-box, old man.”
“Why should I? I don’t fear you. You’re nothing but a weak little man.”
“Strong enough to kill you with just a thought!”
“So? I’ve lived a better life than any man has a right to ask for. Two hundred years worth… and I’ve seen beyond the Eternal Boundary. I’ve been to the place I’m going. I’ve fought to defend it. Have you seen the Nine Hells, sirrah? I promise you, you’d think twice about your life if you had.”
“I don’t plan on dying – ever. That’s why I’m looking for Haden.”
“Is this about the Eye of the Dawn?”
“What do you know about that?” asked the psion, thunderstruck.
“I know that Alocer, among others, has been looking for it, and that he thinks it’ll complete his City. But it can’t do any of that – and it won’t make you immortal.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Gyderic explained his plan, though he had no idea why he felt compelled to do so. Was it because the old man wasn’t long for this world? Or was he just desperate to tell someone? Surely Cerellis would recognize his genius – the inevitability of his triumph.
Cerellis listened carefully; when Gyderic finished, the half-celestial said “You’ll never succeed.”
Gyderic gave a forced laugh which the old man saw right through. “It won’t be you that stops me.”
“You’ve decided to kill me, then.”
“After a fashion.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to lie down for it.”
What? Gyderic stole a glance at the greatsword, but Cerellis didn’t seem to notice. “I thought you were the sort who’d want to go out fighting,” the psion said.
“Maybe once. Not any more.”
Resigned to this strange scenario, Gyderic followed the half-celestial up the staircase, and even helped him into bed. “Your son doesn’t know you at all,” the elan admitted.
“Alas.” Cerellis blinked a golden tear from his eyes. “I’ve had to maintain that facade for so long… the toll it’s taken on Haden is my sole regret.”
“I don’t know why you broke it with me.”
The old man shrugged, saying “I suppose I wanted someone to see the real me before it’s gone.” He leaned toward the nightstand, which supported an elaborate vase of exotic flowers, and inhaled their fragrance, motioning for Gyderic to do the same.
“It’s intoxicating,” Gyderic said. “Almost like spicy food.”
“Stygian lotus. It only grows in the Fifth Hell. Takes no end of effort to cultivate, but it’s just so… unique. I had never believed that such beauty could be found in dark places before encountering it. Much like my wife, of course.” A wistful expression crossed the old man’s face. “I must confess a second regret – that I never brought her into the light – but that, at least, will fall to hands other than mine. What is your name, sirrah?”
“Gyderic, my lord.”
“Ah. As for you, Gyderic, I fear my father was wrong.”
“Yes. He believed that anyone – everyone – could be swayed to the cause of virtue.”
“Then your father was a fool.”
“That was my fear as well… though, were he here, he might have seen something within you that I cannot.” Sampling the flower’s bouquet one last time, Cerellis lay down and announced “I’m ready.”
- – - – -
Gyderic destroyed Lord Cerellis’s mind, but could find no pleasure in it.
- – - – -
Afterward, he called his minions to his side, and waited for the Gatekeepers to arrive.