CHAPTER 11: THE CONQUEST OF MABUS
Groethuis was halfway through explaining exactly how the God-killer worked when Mabus raised his hand to silence him.
“Master?” said Groethuis, looking up from the schematics he had spread across the table like a treasure map.
“That will be all today, Doctor. You may finish tomorrow.”
“As you wish, Master.”
“Can the weapon be fired?”
“It is primed and ready.”
“Good. We may get precious little warning.”
“Master, if I may ask…”
“That will be all, Doctor.”
Sensing that Mabus was close to simply vanishing him out of the throne room with a thought, and without much consideration as to whether he reappeared on the ground or a hundred feet above it, Groethuis gathered up his papers and left without another word.
Mabus silently rested in his throne for a full two minutes.
Finally, he rose to his feet and opened the door to his private bedroom.
He already knew, indeed had known from the second he had raised his hand to silence Groethuis, what he would find there.
“Ave Mabus.” said the figure who was now sitting in his chair with his legs crossed nonchalantly over the table.
“What do you want?” Mabus asked.
“Why do you think I’m here?” the second Mabus asked.
Mabus studied his double. A horrific, skeletal figure draped in sack-like skin and with the barest, mist-thin wreathing of grey hair here and there. And those terrible, milky pale eyeballs, nestling in cavernous sockets like terrible pearls in some ancient shell. Since he had no memory of this meeting, this Mabus was from his future, not his past. But how far in the future? Impossible to say. Even back in the living world, Mabus had been aged as much as a person could be aged. He could not look older if he tried. And here in Hell, no one aged anyway, making it doubly pointless. This Mabus could be from ten seconds in the future, or ten million years.
“To warn me?” Mabus asked.
The second Mabus opened his mouth to let the pale lips slip over his teeth, the closest he could come to a grin.
“To give you a little helping hand.” he said “The hard part’s coming. I think you know to what I refer?”
“But I do win? We win?”
“Well that’s up to you, isn’t it?”
Am I truly this insufferably smug? Mabus asked himself.
“Yes.” said his double.
Walked into that one, I suppose, Mabus thought.
“Yes you did.” said the second Mabus, again with the awful skull grin.
“Get to the point.” Mabus snapped irritably “What do I have to do?”
“Here.” said the double, passing a roll of yellowing paper across the table to him.
“What is this?” Mabus asked him, unfurling it, his eyes adjusting to the script. Ancient Greek. He tried a few words as an appetiser, long disused parts of his brain flickering into life at the taste of them.
“The Conquest of Mabus.” said his twin “It’s a poem, written by one of your soldiers. It commemorates your glorious victory.”
“Why give it to me?”
“Because it’ll tell you everything you need to do. And it’s good for your ego. Enjoy.”
Mabus simply nodded. He didn’t bother thanking himself. What was the point?
His double vanished, and Mabus unfurled the scroll and began to read.