We made our way down to the eighth floor. We passed no one on the way down, although the stone steps were worn and dented from much use. The temperature noticeably rose as we reached the bottom. Balmy.
Unlike the previous levels, there was only one door down here. It went from floor to ceiling, which must have been at least ten feet. No doorbell. Or knocker. Or handle. But there was a small black hole right in the centre.
The Guildmaster placed his mouth over the hole and spoke. “Hello, God?” His voice boomed out like like he was doing a mic check in a stadium. “It’s me, Master Garet.”
We stood there waiting, me and Kizwat, the Guildmaster and his two men. We had dispensed with the Swayze fan club, for the time being at least.
Echoing footsteps could be heard on the other side, then a smaller panel in the door opened and a man’s face appeared. He had very dark skin, big, chubby cheeks, a neatly trimmed afro with heavy sideburns and a thin moustache.
“Oh, hello Garet. You look well. How are the wife and the family?” He spoke in English, at least to my ear, but with a thick French accent. He came across as very mild-mannered and polite, which made me suspect he probably wasn’t a native of France.
“They’re all fit and healthy, thank you, God.”
“You don’t have to thank me, I had nothing to do with it.” He let out a peal of girlish laughter. He looked past the Guildmaster at the rest of us, nodding and smiling. “You have brought friends?”
“Yes, God,” said the Guildmaster. “This young man is Colin. He is another visitor who wished to meet you.”
“Oh.” God’s eyes widened and his smile got bigger. “Oh. Oh. Yes, yes. How wonderful. Come in, come in.”
He closed the panel.
There was a clank. Then a grinding of gears. A few seconds later, the big door rose up into the roof.
“If you please, follow me.” God wore a knee-length tunic, like a kaftan, which billowed and swirled around him as he turned. It was so colourful it made your ears hurt.
The space behind the large door was empty and only led to another, normal-sized door, a few feet away.
God took out a bunch of keys—I couldn’t tell from where—and selected one to unlock the smaller door. He pulled the door towards him and then stood aside, motioning for us to go through.
We entered single file, the Guildmaster leading the way and me behind him. The room on the other side was not very big. There was a settee and two chairs, and a desk. More functional than decorative. Behind the desk was another door with a big wheel on it, like you find in submarines.
“Please, sit, sit.”
God closed the door and locked it again. I had expected guards and all sorts of security measures, but it appeared God didn’t need protecting.
I grabbed one of the chairs while the Kizwat took the other. This left the Guildmaster and his cronies to squeeze themselves into the settee. They looked like they’d been invited around to someone else’s granny’s for tea and didn’t know what to do with themselves.
“Apologies. If I had known I was going to have so many guests I would have arranged for more chairs. I’m not usually so popular, you know?” He laughed again.
I didn’t feel intimidated by him. He gave off no unpleasant vibes at all. This would normally make me suspicious, but in this case I remained relaxed and at ease. Possibly, I had reached anxiety fatigue, and my fear hormones had been completely depleted.
God sat down behind the desk. “Now, before we get to why you’re here, let me first ask you… ah, Colin? Yes, Colin. Could it be you are with the group who came to visit me yesterday?”
“Yes,” I said. “They are my… travelling companions. Or they were, until you locked them up.”
“Ah, well,” he shrugged. “Such is life. But tell me, did you come planning to rescue them?” His question didn’t sound menacing in any way, just interested.
“Kind of. I’d like to get them out if I can, but I don’t really know what they did. It could be they deserve to be punished.”
“Yes, yes. It could be.” Around God’s neck hung a pendant, a dark crystal on a gold chain. He rubbed it between thumb and finger. Could it be a magical item? The source of his ability to tell truth from lie?
“Can I ask you something?” I said.
“What language are you speaking?”
“Why, French of course. Same as you.”
“I’m speaking English.”
“Ah.” His smile broadened. “You just think you’re speaking English. We all speak French here. It is, after all, God’s own tongue.” He burst into laughter again. He obviously enjoyed his God puns.
“So, you’re French?” Gullen had mentioned French visitors, but he’d said they’d all died.
“No, no. Quebecois.”
“Oh, I’ve never met a black French Canadian before.”
“No, no,” said God, a little less jovially. “Quebecois.”
“Okay.” Didn’t seem like an issue I wanted to get into. “So, there’s a lot of stuff I’d like to talk to you about, but first there’s a small matter I was hoping you could help settle, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, yes? I am happy to help, if I can.”
“Great. “ I looked over at the Guildmaster who was squashed between his two attendants. I was starting to feel hopeful. This God fellow didn’t seem too bad. “I recently killed a Mouse King with a spike made by Kizwat here.” I pointed at Kizwat seated on the other chair. “He gave the spike to the Guildmaster, who promptly lost it. I was wondering if you could verify if the spike was genuine or not.”
“I see,” said God. “You killed the Mouse King with this spike, is that what you’re claiming?” He lifted the pendant up to his lips and began sucking on it.
“Yes,” I said.
God shook his head. “But you and I both know that isn’t true.”
There was a clear and definite change in the mood of the Guildmaster and his men. Jubilant, I’d call it.
“Er” I said, “I’m pretty sure it is true. I was there when it happened.”
“No, no. It is very clear that you don’t believe your own words.”
Double shit. He was accusing me of lying. Obviously I wasn’t lying, so that could only mean he was.
I sighed. It had always been the most likely outcome, so it wasn’t really a surprise. “Is there anyway to prove that you’re not lying?”
“Of course,” said God.
Not the answer I expected. “There is?”
The Guildmaster sat up, jostling his way free of the elbows pinning him back. “It would be a very unreliable system if the Teller of Truths could simply choose when to be honest.”
“If I tell an untruth,” said God, “I will die. It is how the previous Teller met his end.” God shook his head sadly.
“But I thought… I was told by…” Fucking Biadet. “So, you really think I’m lying about having killed a unique beast?”
God looked surprised. “Oh. A unique beast? Yes, that is true. You did kill a unique beast.”
Now I was really confused. “With the spike Kizwat made me?”
“Yes, yes. That is correct.”
“But you said I didn’t kill the Mouse King.”
“Because you didn’t. You certainly don’t believe you did.”
I sat there thinking about what he’d just said. “Your ability, it allows you to tell when someone’s lying.”
“Even if they believe what they’re saying, you can still tell when their belief is incorrect.”
“What if they don’t believe something that is actually true? Is that a lie or not?”
“Oh. Let me think.” God held the pendant between his teeth, pondering. “So, someone boasts that they are a great swordsman when they know they are not, but in fact they truly are a great swordsman? Something like that?”
“Hmm. I suppose that would show up as a lie. But what kind of delusional fool would think like that?”
I put my head in my hands. What kind of fool, indeed. I rubbed my face to try and wipe away the humiliation crawling all over me. I don’t think it worked.
“I did kill the Mouse King,” I said. “That is a fact. But the truth is, it wasn’t the scary monster everyone gave me credit for. It wasn’t a gigantic beast all teeth and claws. It was a little mouse, quite old and frail, that I stabbed in the face until he was dead. Technically, it was the Mouse King, just in his refractory period when he’s breeding and has no strength left for fighting.”
I looked over at Kizwat who looked confused. Anger and disappointment would probably soon follow. The Guildmaster and his men were listening intently.
“That might explain why the tests were inconclusive,” said the Guildmaster. “We would have to adjust the parameters to confirm what you’re saying. But it is still, technically, a unique beast.”
“Yes, technically. But, in my heart, I don’t feel like the killer of the mighty Mouse King. So it’s hard for me to accept in those terms. Do you think that’s what you’re picking up?”
“Quite. Quite,” said God. “Very interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever run into a case like this before.”
“Obviously your power was never intended for people full of doubt and self-loathing. Could probably use an upgrade.”
“You may be correct,” said God. “If only such a thing were possible.” He chortled to himself. I had no idea about what.
“Anyway,” I said, trying to get the topic off me and my massive insecurities, “the important thing is that you agree that the spike is genuine and I am the person it belongs to. So my friends who took it only reclaimed what was already ours, so they didn’t really steal anything.”
God looked confused. “I’m sorry, but your friends did not steal a spike. I have no spike here for them to steal.”
“Um, what now?” Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in. I turned to the Guildmaster. “You didn’t hide the spike in God’s vault?”
“Of course not,” said the Guildmaster. “I told you, it was misplaced.”
“Ah,” said God. “No, no. I can see you believe that, but that is not what happened.”
It was the Guildmaster’s turn to be confused. “It wasn’t misplaced? Then where did it go?”
“Yes, what did happen to it?” I asked God.
He shrugged. “That, I cannot say.”
I was starting to think this power of his was a bit crap.
“And my friends, what did they steal?”
“A ceremonial dagger belonging to another guild. It is worth quite a lot of money, but hard to sell, considering the guild it belongs to.”
“I don’t suppose it’s the Lollipop Guild.”
“No. It is the Carpenter’s Guild.”
Of course. It would be. For what possible reason would they have taken a ceremonial dagger? For no reason, obviously.
“But I’m sure my friends claim to have no idea how the dagger ended up in their possession.”
“One minute it wasn’t there, the next, there it was.”
“Absolutely. They put it almost in those words exactly.”
Spikes suddenly disappearing. Daggers appearing out of nowhere. Who did I know capable of vanishing in and out of thin air?