The Golden Horologium

Being different is not a choice, it's fate. Jetta Rowe was born to be different whether she likes it or not, and sooner or later, she will have to admit that no one can run from their destiny.

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1. The newborn

          In the numb, quiet darkness of the night, the whizzes of the pale-white figure were almost loud. At this time of the day, when dawn was growing with unstoppable rapidness, the palace looked nothing like the friendly place it was. Even though Nereos was in desperate hurry, he still made notice of the greyish shade of the white bricks, the torches' low-key light, the blackness of the corners. Every now and then, white figures peered out of rooms or from behind the heavy doors, soundless, but with questions showing off their faces. 

          Nereos knew exactly what they were thinking. Something was wrong, something was badly wrong. 

          Without regard to either etiquette or common courtesy, he strode through the gate that led to the palace's easternmost wing. He was surprised to find the pale-white figure he was looking for at the half-moon shaped table instead of the enormous bed. After all, sleeping would have been the most reasonable thing to do at 3 in the morning. 

          "My Lord, my master..." the previously whizzing figure was now breathing heavily, therefore disproving every law of physics since he didn't even have lungs. 

          "Nereos, please," a light smile was playing on the tall figure's lips. He knows it, thought Nereos in a fright. Of course he knows it, what does the Headbonum not know?

          "Alcaeus, something terrible happened today morning. I got the news from the village, Timos. They sent the messanger from the edge of the township, but I'm not entirely sure if we can trust her..."

          "What is it then?" Alcaeus was sitting as calmly in his chair as always, showing neither excitement nor boredom. In comparison, Nereos was shaking with fever. 

          "A child was born there, a little girl..." he couldn't finish the sentence, his voice broke with a halt.

          "It's not something to be all fussed about, Nereos. Hundreds of girls born every day, neither of them is worth the effort to wake up this early in the morning."

          Nereos inhaled a good amount of the chilly air, then let the words come out as if they were burning to surface.

          "She was born without a bonum, my Lord. Unbelieveable, but all true if we can trust the messanger."

          Alcaeus frowned slightly, and even though his expressions seemed to be all under control, Nereos could feel the calm atmosphere leaving the room on the instant. However, when the Headbonum stood up he seemed just as confident and wise as ever, if not more. His voice was light and full of determination, as if they were merely talking about the daily routine.

          "Who is the messanger?"

          "Brina, my Lord. A vapidus, but she was the only one available around there."

          Nodding tightly, Alcaeus placed his palms on the enormous table. His eyes seemed distant, worried even, but his face didn't show it. The Headbonum did not intend to display his anxiety, instead he spoke with tight definiteness.

          "Wake Nyx and Genaro up! I want to be in Timos as soon as possible."

          On his way back, Nereos was nothing but a white whizz. Up the stairs, along the corridors, through the gates. More and more white bonums appeared, looking utterly confused and being determined to find out what the fuss was about. When one huge, pale-white figure called Nereos to account, Alcaeus's faithful follower didn't even bother to censor his opinion. 

          In five minutes, all three followers were ready to go, and one glimpse of the Headbonum's face was enough for them to make it sure that this was something serious. They set off without hesitation, neverthless the sun's first rays were already up on the sky by the time they arrived at Timos. They couldn't miss the house even if they wanted to, surrounded by at least fifty people, it stood out among the dead streets. Neighbours and friends, age ranging between 4 and 74, everyone who had heard about the news was there. This changed rapidly as people quickly made notice of the four bonums; within a few seconds, the street was as dead and quiet as all the others. 

          Alcaeus led the white demons up to the front of the house, and his irrefutable offer to get inside almost tore the door out of its frame. Nereos couldn't help but feel anxious,  he had never seen the Headbonum in such a state. And he could tell, having been Alcaeus's follower for almost 600 years. 

          The house was just the same inside as out. Old, dingy, seedy-looking. A few people were in the small living room, and all turned their faces to the door as if they were moved by an invisible chain. The man of the house jumped up from an old-looking, rather scrappy armchair and threw himself to Alcaeus's feet. 

          "My Lord..." his voice was barely audible, and even though he kept himself in a bow, the Headbonum didn't seem to appreciate the effort. 

          "Never humble yourself before anyone, because that way you are merely giving power to them to humble you," Alcaeus sounded rather wise than threatening, but the man understood it all the same. Nevertheless, while standing up, he kept his gaze at the feet of the demon. 

          The four bonums looked around in the room. Apart from the man, the room held another six people; seemingly way too much for the capacity of the place. There was a tired-looking woman with eyes red of crying, on her lap a startled little boy, two other children around the age of 9-10, sitting on the grey couch and another two women, fussing around the one with the child on her lap. For a second, a thought crossed Nereos's mind, assuming that they were not even in the right household. 

          "Is this the house where a child was born an hour or so ago?" he asked it more like an interrogator than someone who is curious. 

          The fragile-looking woman with the red eyes nodded, then added with such quietness it was not much more than a whisper.

          "It is indeed," her voice was soft and scared, the voice of someone who has yet to decide what they thought of the situation. 

          "And what a child!" the biting sound broke the silence on the instant, making both four demons to look around more carefully. Accompanied by glimpses from every present people, Alcaeus glided some metres to his right. There, behind an old armchair, next to the fireplace stood a cradle with a black demon leaning against it. The figure wore a sneer on his face and was thinner and shorter than other vapiduses; these were the signs of a young demon.

          Without making any notice of the vapidus, Alcaeus took a step towards the cradle. No one else moved, the three bonums were staring at the Headbonum's back with rapt attention. Alcaeus peered carefully over the edge of the cradle, not knowing what to expect. If he feared some disgusting, terrible creature, he had to come down from the clouds: there was a completely normal newborn sleeping under layers of sheets, breathing lightly. The vapidus leaned into the cradle as well and started to babble with excessive irony.

          "Well, hello there little girl, guess who is the one who born without a bonum? Guess who? Of course it's you, you little angel-bangel! 

          Rolling his eyes, Alcaeus turned to the parents. 

          "What's her name? Tell me everything, when and how this happened."

          The woman's voice was shaking as she began to talk.

          "Her name is Jetta Rowe, we named her after my grandmother. I can't really say a lot. My family has been white for almost 500 years and the same goes to my husband's relatives. We haven't had a single person amongst our ancestors for the past 5 centuries who'd chosen their vapidus. You can look it up, our family tree is one of the biggest bonum ones. I have given birth to three children already, and although their time has not come yet to choose, all of them have both a vapidus and a bonum. We didn't know there was anything wrong, anything at all, until I gave birth to Jetta, and the only thing that came along was this cheeky vapidus," the woman sighed with resignation, then, without warning, sobs started to shake her shoulders. The father looked up for the first time since the four bonums arrived.

          "I cannot think of a bigger shame that could have come upon us," his voice was dripping with bitterness, and anyone could see that his thoughts were serious. The mother stopped sobbing and looked up to the four bonums.

          "My Lord, what is going to happen to my daughter?"

          "What's going to happen?" cried the biting voice once again as the vapidus made his way out of the shade. "Isn't it obvious? They are going to get rid of the problem, if you know what I mean," his giggle made it clear what he thought of the situation.

          Nereos's blood run cold as he glimpsed over Alcaeus's direction. It was forbidden for bonums to hurt people, let alone kill them; this was something Alcaeus swore on a thousand years ago and this was in the demon's code, the Millia Condicto.

          Since the world began, people were born with two demons. Each person had been coming to life with a black demon called vapidus, and a white demon called bonum. Naturally, the two colours represented the bad and the good, and a person's life was dependent on their relationships with their demons. Each person that walked Earth had 20 years to get to know their demons and themselves, and on their twentieth birthday, they got to choose. From that moment on, they only had one demon.

          Sure enough, since the world began, the good and the bad demons had been fighting. A thousand years ago, when Alcaeus got to become the Headbonum, he wrote and swore on the Millia Condicto with the Headvapidus of the time. It was an agreement, in order to divide power between bonums and vapiduses: they changed it every 100 year. At the moment, the power was in the hands of bonums; a little bit more than 20 years were left. And with everything else, Alcaeus's promise was in the code: if such a time would ever come that a bonum hurts a human, power falls into the hands of the vapiduses immediately. This was the main law for Alcaeus and he took it most seriously. Therefore Nereos wasn't even surprised to see his master turning to the young demon with sinister slowness. 

          "If I were you, I wouldn't even open my mouth just to say things you have no clue about," his voice was calm and cold, but it seemed as though the vapidus had a really slow day, considering that the grin didn't disappear from his face. "What's your name?" 

          "I haven't got one yet. This little girl here," he pointed his black finger at the cradle's direction "would've been my first client, but I have a feeling that soon I will get a new one," his grin was unremovable.

          Without even bothering to say something back, Alcaeus shaked his head. Then he changed his mind and turned back to the black demon without anything but rigidness. 

          "Would you mind flying out of the house for a moment?"

          Continuing his chuckles and giggles, he whizzed out in spirals. The Headbonum turned his care-worn face to the other three demons. All present people were staring at them as one, none of them actually knowing what outcome they wished for. This has never happened before, a human who was born with only one demon was a first. It would have been easier if little Jetta lacked her vapidus instead of her bonum, but that was not the case, and the bonums had to decide. Alcaues glimpsed at the people over his shoulder before he spoke. 

          "I suggest we leave everything as they are, and see what happens. She wouldn't be able to cause much problem until later on, and..." his voice faded into a whisper. "We have to think about the Golden Horologium as well."

          Nyx, a middle-aged, only 400 years old bonum widened her eyes. It seemed that she saw something behind Alcaeus's words but she was not entirely sure it could be possible. 

          "You mean...? It couldn't be...!"

          "We cannot know it for sure, Nyx. You know better than anyone, anything could happen," the Headbonum looked at each of them in the eyes, then turned to the humans. 

          "We will give ten years to the girl," he began in a calm, soft voice. "Until then, we will keep our eyes on her, watch for signs of anything unusual. No matter how her fate will work out, she gets ten years; I suggest that is more than enough time for us to make our decision. On her tenth birthday, we will be here to decide about her future. Until then, good luck!" Alcaeus nodded, then turned and accompanied by the three bonums, he left the house behind with a relieved mother and a grim-faced father. 

 

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