The Chamberlain had fell silent for several minutes now.
That was highly unusual on him, and the Ornamentalist knew, with painful clarity, that he had striken a sensitive cord somewhere inside him with his last words.
Heaving his chest with a sigh, he suddenly stopped talking, too, and lowered her sight to the embroidery which laid-still with a needle stuck halfway through it’s cloth- on his lap.
“Perhaps---I should have told you in a more delicate manner, Mylord Chamberlain...”
He ventured, attempting to sound conciliatory.
This did not work though, as SkekSil only shifted his peering, narrowed gaze from a dead point in the wall to another, between a curtain and a shelf.
Only a saddened and suspicion-filled whimper managed to open itself way between his clenched fangs.
So, SkekUng. The General. His own friend...was being held as favorite by the Emperor. And as much as he had been groomed to rule for all those long centuries of obeying, coping with SkekSo’s every whim and request---he was being betrayed yet again...not only by the Emperor himself, with his vain promises which had seemingly meant nothing—but also by his fellow, his commrade, the General.
Bitterness engulfed him as he kept his gaze away from the Ornamentalist purposely, trying to conceal from him the depth of his shock at these news.
SkekEkt couldn't stand the silence, it seemed that SkekSil was lost completely in his thoughts and already plans how to gain Emperor's favor again... that was what HE would try to do.
Knowing that the Emperor will never cease to favor HIM, because of his beautiful robes, which complimented him so much, he never worried about this aspect of life in the castle.
But Chamberlain... SkekEkt knew how sensitive he was if talking about SkekSo's shifty attention.
He hoped himself that SkekUng, who he abhorred silently, will never be even an inch from gaining the power SkekSo seemed to be promising him.
"Lord Chamberlain.. hmh... could I do something? To make your plans easier, to help you somehow? You know I am very capable for eavesdropping..."
He said, his eyes locked on Chamberlain's head.
SkekSil decided it was about time to make a move.
Let it be ANYTHING, but something.
He could not remain with arms crossed in indiference as his own fellow backstabbed him that way! ...
Watching in silence how all his promised power, wealth and happyness were taken away from him, was not something he would ever do.
He had to act.
And if the Ornamentalist wanted to make himself useful---well, that was even better for him!
“Hmmmm, SkekEkt“ He purred, turning slowly to face his ally “Indeed, I may have a use for those skills of yours!“
"Oh!" SkekEkt jumped, in eagerness. That was something he was made for! Spying, gossiping, making use of his ever-hearing ears... even if Chamberlain didn't approve his chattering and even told him that just few minutes ago, now the situation was turning to his side!
His beak was clattering in joy.
"Whatever you wish! Mylord Chamberlain! I am... at your service..." he lashed with his made up lashes and waved a finger at him. "I may even have more juicy informations... if you allow me to... gossip, hihi..."
SkekSil bobbed his head in vehement approval
“Yes, yes, of course I allow!—Hmm not only ALLOW, but ENCOURAGE gosip, in these circumstances!...So, my dear Ornamentalist---what is it you have seen?"
As much as he had managed to form his ever-pose smile, the Chamberlain shifted his weight from one foot to another, in nervousness before whatever he would hear---
SkekEkt felt important now... so important that his handiwork fell from his hands and landed in his robed feet.
"Oh, hihi... I have... I have news that will shake you, Mylord! THe very Ritual Master talked with the Scrollkeeper - I swear they did - and they said that SkekUng on the throne would be useful strength and power to sustain the Empire and even rise it higher! Your name didn't appear but they seem to favorize the General and he--- he knows it!"
His beak was clacking with eagerness when he poured these gossips from it, in nervous yet excited anticipation.
“ So, the Ritual-Master and the Scrollkeeper think HE would be of good use in the throne, hmmm?...They favor him, Hmm?---I am not surprised that the Ritual-Master would favor HIM over me, because he probably knows for certain that he would pull the strings to control that ninny brute from the shadows. Like a puppet. A witless puppet! Hmmm!---But me? OH, not me. If I were on the throne, I would make SkekZok bow to MY command and not otherwise! Hmmm...even SkekSo allows him, since ever, too much weight with his false conjurings and spiritual mock“
Bile rose within the Chamberlain, and his fangs gritted.
“But—SKEKOK? Hmmmmm that small screechrat of a skeksis had recently told me he thought I would be fitting for the position. That I would be just and great if I ever reached the throne! Hmmm, but then I wonder why did I allow that small false, lying, treacherous things’ chatter convince me in any way. Hmmm. HMMM. I shall see that he knows well what I think of HIM and his mock chronicles and his false statements, oh yes---I will be discrete, but he will KNOW. Hmm...”
Striving to calm down, SkekSil leaned before the Ornamentalis and picked up his fallen embroidery, in a courteous display clearly intended to flatter him.
With a self-imposed smile, which was well ellaborate and sweet as honey, he returned his fallen craft to him, purring.
“Here, Hmm, we wouldn’t want such a precious, delicate thing to be damaged...”
Then, he enstled even nearer, murmuring
“So, hmm..my dear ally...is that all you heard, or are there any further things I might need to know?"
SkekEkt's eyes shone. He was definitely in the center if attention and no other that Chamberlain made him so important. He purred too, taking the embroidery back from him and allowed their hands to touch during it. Let him know how much he cherishes this attention.
"Well, Mylord... there is nothing new from me sadly... BUT... I would advice you to visit Scroll Keeper... the General ordered a chronicle from him... what could you know from it, if you peeked there and... hmm... allowed SkekOk to SPEAK, hihi..."
That said, SkekEkt returned to his work, still observing Chamberlain carefully.
"SkekOk is weak" he said with unusual harshness in his words. "He follows the supposed winner. And never tells the truth."
There was a venom in his words, as SkekOK did something to him, which he wanted to keep in secret.
The Chamberlain knotted his spindly fingers together.
“Hmmmm, goodness—“ He exclaimed theatrically.
“A new chronicle, hmmm?...I would certainly be interessed in the contents of such thing!...Hmm, though one might think you have a personal animosity againt the Scrollkeeper, by means of how you referr to him, dear Ornamentalist“
Observing a tell-telling flare of turbulent emootion rush through the face of his ally, SkekSil made sure he had been right about it.
Then, deciding to make an even more flattering approach to things with SkekEkt, he offered
“Hmm, this for that, my dear Ally. I see something troubles you. Something you perhaps wish to not speak of...not even with me, hmm?...YET, I could make the Scrollkeeper repent from any ill doing he committed against you. Despite of not knowing what it was. Hmm? What do you say? Is it a fair deal, information from your well-informed beak..for a small vegeance of your illustrious self?---Hmm?..”
There was no real need for it, but it should be fun. And useful. Giving the Ornamentalist all the importance he craved so much would encourage him, thus allow him to obtain even better informtion from him in time..
"Pffff" SkekEkt waved his gloved hand but was evidently pleased that the Chamberlain wants to avenge him. After some playful hesistation, he blurted. "He is rude! He dared to complain about his newest robes, even if I made them exactly as he asked! He told me that I should rework the collar... REWORK THE COLLAR! Pffff! It was exactly as it should fit him scrawny neck!" SkekEkt fumed in righteous offence. "If you could lecture him, Mylord, then, I would hear better and see better for you... yes! My eyes will be even more willing and my ears more eager... and then..."
He suddenly whispered to SkekSil's ear, which he had easy access to due his pose.
"... and then I can hear something which will bring you closer to the throne... whole alliance is waiting for it, Lord Chamberlain..."
That said, his hands started to move very fast on the embroidery, in evident emotion.
SkekSil bobbed his head in mute assentment, allowing only the smallest thread of a whimper to escape his beak.
If SkekEkt was so offended from the Scrollkeeper’s rudeness at stating he should rework on the newest collar he had crafted for his attire, then he had offered him a new tool into his needful work for the throne.
He still felt disbelieving about SkekUng being aware of the favoritism of the others which suddenly was aimed towards his person and propelled him as new ruler.
They had always been in more or less friendly terms with each other, and the General was, if sometimes brutal and blunt, one of the most honest skeksis he had ever known, at the moment of telling what passed through his head...
Yet—he had NEVER mentioned to him anything about rising into the Emperor’s favor...or even coveting the position-though SkekSil had always had slight suspects about everyone about that.
If the Ornamentalist was meaning what he said, now, and by merely pushing the Scrollkeeper enough as for him to either apollogize or redraw his offensive attitude towards his newly made garments, he could have fitting eyes and ears finding secrets out for him, perhaps.
SkekEkt was truly good at that, he only needed a good incentive, and he would see to provide it...
-“I will settle things with him, Hmmm?—soon, Ornamentalist”- he murmured, fluffing his molting remnants of what had been a thick black mane.
-“Very soon, now. Patience, my dear ally. You will see him ask you for forgiveness and redrawing his rude statements before you know it—then, you can see, and hear better for me...yes? hmmm...”
"Oh yes! You will not condamn me for gossiping, then, Lord Chamberlain, would you?" he winked wittily to him. "Because if you felt offended by my gossips and not allow me to have my fun, spreading them, then even my resourceful information could be considered at such... if you won't condamn me for one gossip there and here, I would have even better motivation to serve you welll... very very well..." he winked again. "How do you think, Mylord, would such emroidery fit your collar ruffle, of course in black of color?" he fitted the work he was doing to his neck in almost innocent gesture.
The Chamberlain smiled acknowledgingly.
SkekEkt was definitely playing one of his best cards now: flattery.
He had to admit it was working rather well, even when he was fullly conscious of the Ornamentalist’s attempt at manipulating him, he would willingly allow him to believe he had succeeded, if only to possess that beautiful embroidered ruffle to add to his flaunt.
“Hmmmm...I might indeed have been way too rough about your looseness of tongue, SkekEkt“ - He adressed at him in that unusual, informal manner, so to coherse him of having threaded in a personal path, though in a good way.
"I shall remember how sometimes your ability to gossip may be a virtue instead of a flaw, hmm?...then—YES. Hmmm, I believe I would really fancy having this collar..."
His hands pressed the laced ruffles SkekEkt was holding against his chest in acceptance. He took good care to lithely trap the Ornamentalist’s fingers under his own in the process, applying on them a confident, subtle pressure of reassurance and –he hoped- commradry.
His smile grew even wider when he saw the Ornamentalist’s gesture: he was delighted.
Everything might just go as he had- already -started to plan.
SkekEkt felt as they sealed the agreement which could lead only to good things.
They always were close as allies and such moments were making them even closer.
He was indeed delighted and lightheaded.
This could bring only profits.
"I would suggest you to go to the Scrollkeeper as soon as you can. Who knows what SkekUng demanded from him and how fast he will recover that from him. You know how proud is our General... and how fast into acting..."
He knew the Chamberlain will go as fast as he can to possess informations, which were always his strong point. He knew the weight of good information.
He winked to him and delicately took back the embroidery to work further on it and maybe adorn them with the new pearl stones he got from the Treasurer.