“Leave now!” he demanded, “No longer are you welcome in this kingdom.” Perhaps it was my silence, or perhaps my smirk at his one-sided conversation that set off his outburst. His face grew red as he huffed orders to his guards. Quickly, they seized my arms and I watched his flustered face as I was dragged out of the throne room. He seemed to be smoothing down his feathers, but it was just too much temptation! I wasn’t done playing yet. A laugh bubbled out of me—soon I was thrown into maniacal hysteria. It pleased me immensely to watch the supposedly well-composed, self-righteous, pompous, pretentious…. Well I’m just rambling now. His feathers, once pristine and neat, were all rumpled and up in a bunch. The sight was certainly one to see.
“What’s my name?” I called like a madman, pulling against my dutiful captors. His fist clenched and he rose off of his ego-feeding throne. Oh, I thought, that hit a nerve. A new fit of laughter took me. This was pure gold! I was being entertained like a god! There’s nothing to be more ashamed of than public humiliation, and the big man looked like he’d had enough.
“Easy does it, big guy! I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself again!” I smiled maliciously. At this, his head snapped suddenly in my direction, and the nobles that lined the sides of the room tensed. He strode across the room—a flurry of robes and anger. Soon we were face-to-face once again, just like old times. I could feel the eagerness of the guards to let go and slink away from under his piercing gaze, the poor lambs. We locked eyes, and I whispered (whether out of spite or joy, I couldn’t tell you):
“What’s my name?”
He said nothing.
“Should I say it for you? Are you ashamed to speak it? Does the fact that we share it make your very blood boil?” I whispered through a vicious grin. This was quite fun. My sing-song voice rang loud, reaching the twitching ears of everyone in the room. Disgusted and disturbed by my words as they were, I still had them hanging on every slip of my tongue. Not a murmur was heard from them.
“Are those nasty rumors true?” I gasped, turning to look at those standing around us. Turning back, I looked at him, as skeptically as I could manage, and began again, “Is it true? That you and I were once— “
Cut short by a blow to the stomach, I doubled over in pain. I was exaggerating, of course. That prissy little snot could never throw a real punch, but it did give me a precious few seconds. My eyes scanned the room full of faces. Shortly before, they were full of hate or shame from my constant verbal lashings beforehand while I was waiting for his highness’s grand appearance. By now, I’ve ruined the political careers and reputations of a least a dozen people, and the marriages of even more. What can I say? Things were awfully boring. Why not mix it up some?
But now—now I could see something dangerous, even more so than an army. Was it hate? Anger? Revulsion? No. Nothing so petty was that volatile.
Curiosity. Though none of them would ever speak of it in front of their king, they all burned with the desire to know. A small question constantly nagged their mind: Is it true? Were they once not only kin, but the same person? But for fear of their life, they tried to smother the thought. They tried desperately to quell their wondering. After all, it was such a ludicrous idea! The king was brilliant, handsome, diligent and just such a great guy! How could he have anything to do with this dirty and rude (yet devilishly handsome) ruffian? Still, the thought pestered them. A little muffled thought becomes an obsessive longing. And what’s more dangerous than people sifting through the past? What kind of dirty secrets are revealed? I nearly shivered in excitement. The thought of so much snooping was tantalizing. So much can be discovered! The lies! The truth! The life of deceit! And the best part to be unearthed?
How they’ve been made a fool of.
You may find yourself wondering, how do I fit into all this? A man of such grace and cunning would clearly have a better way to spend the day than tormenting this poor man! But sadly, I’m afraid, I’m dead center in this mess. This poor soul of mine—one named Noctilius mind you, not some of these dreadful things I’ve heard from these potty-mouthed nobles—is caught right in the center with my dear counterpart here. Alas, he’s been swept up into the corruption of man, a terribly poisonous thing. And yes, know that my counterpart is the one currently with raging froth at his mouth, shedding spittle on his dear old friend Noctilius.
“Ay me!” I tutted, “Noctilius, what have you gotten yourself into?” His jaw clenched at his own name—not the fake one he had imposed upon himself—but his true name. Our name.
“Poor little Noctilius! Apollo’s gracious temple lodging just wasn’t enough for you, oh no! You wished to rise above yourself. To tromp around as something you’re not. The oath you took there held no meaning against your ambition!” I never looked away from his gaze, which seemed to drip poisonous abhorrence. At this, the crowd began to mumble. A few words drifted to my ears.
“…disappearing 40 years ago!”
I smiled and didn’t miss a beat, “The gift he bestowed upon us wasn’t enough for you, was it? You should call yourself lucky that your loving other half found you before he did. A god is never one to be trifled with, you know.” The crowd became rambunctious. Divine business was much more concerning, and their king seemed to be on the wrong side of the stick. His followers were buffoons, certainly, but at least they weren’t completely incompetent.
“Outrageous!” a loyal subject called from the rowdy throng with a gracious bow, “Your majesty, please dispose of this disgrace of a man, before more of his words poison our ears! We will not fall to his lies!” I couldn’t help but turn to laugh in this man’s face.
“Lies? You dare call the messenger of Apollo a liar?” After such slander, I found myself questioning the value of my time there. Those in the room were twisted around Noctilius’ finger, happy lap dogs begging for his affection. My stomach churned in disgust at the sight. How these petty mortals thought themselves worthy of ruling, I hadn’t a clue. But it was obvious my time here was over. I turned back to their master and spit out a scornful few words.
“As gracious your hosting has been, I fear I’ve run out of the time and patience it takes to handle this pitiful court. Let it be known that you have been warned.” A sudden oppressive feeling took the room as I stepped away from the mass, and all noise abruptly died. The flames of torches once licking at the walls snuffed out. They gasped at the darkness and gawked at my silhouette. An eerie light spilled from the window and pooled on the floor from the moon’s last waning. That’s right, little lambs, I chuckled to myself, Pay attention.
A voice rumbled from deep within me, the words stirring like an ancient giant ready to awaken after centuries of slumber. I let the message bubble forth, pouring out like glowing nectar to swirl with the pale light on the floor, and the numb pain of all my prophecies began. Every word felt like it etched itself into my soul, and tore out of me and into the world like a raging bull. My voice reverberated softly across the room with a power unlike any found in men.
“Like the day slips, let night recede,
Its only wish to be split at the seed.
As dawn and dusk clash again,
Through this battle of wits and men,
With one a crown of fool’s gold,
And the other filled with words of old,
Mortals take comfort to heed:
That only one may bleed.”
Dumbfounded, they stood gaping at my deliverance. I stood, stone faced and heavy with exhaustion after such a display, and stared intently at Noctilius. His jaw opened slightly to say something, but at my glare snapped it shut. My voice still hoarse and weary, I tried my all to fill my gaze with meaning. I pray that my message got through to him. It read as this:
His foolishness will cost him dearly. Whether by his own or my will, he would repent. And even if I had to drag his rotting corpse, he will come home.
~End of Part One~