Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One Disaster Less

Written while listening to The Last Thing On Your Mind by Lights.

. . . . . To whom it may conce-... “No, too formal.”
. . . . . Regretfully, the ti-... “Too emotional!”
. . . . . After a year, it has co-...
. . . . . “Diyos!”
. . . . . Papers rustled as Diyos swiftly covered the letter he was writing with a blank sheet and looked up expectantly to see his baby brother closing the door to their apartment in the Park District of Stormwind behind him. Athos had a distinctly frazzled air to go with his usual excitability; he practically bounded into the room, a cardboard box wrapped in twine tucked under one arm. “DiyosDiyosDi-”
. . . . . “Stop.” The priest held out one platter-sized hand in a staying gesture, careful not to sweep his sleeve through the pile of crumpled balls of paper on the table in front of him. “Breathe.”
. . . . . The younger – by a few minutes – draenei clattered to a halt in front of the table and set down his package. He took a deep breath and regarded Diyos in his chair, managing to stay quiet for all of about six seconds. “Diyos! Naaru’s sake, did you forget? Why are you just sitting here? Get up. Get up! It’s time to go!”
. . . . . “I didn’t forget – I’m just trying to get other business done, brother.” The chair made an obnoxious scraping sound as it moved back across the wooden floor and Diyos stood. “Is Kreli coming up or are we mee-”
. . . . . “We’re meeting him there!” Athos interrupted.
. . . . . Diyos shook his head and gave his baby brother a bemused smile as he picked up a book titled Compassion in Battle: War-time Counseling to read while they waited at the courthouse and tucked it under his arm. “Alright, let’s get under way then.”
. . . . . “You’re going to wear that?”
. . . . . Diyos glanced down at his robes; they were black with purple embroidery on the cuffs. “What’s wrong with this?”
. . . . . “You practically look like a magistrate yourself,” his baby brother said with a scowl. “You could at least attempt to look like a man who still serves the Light.”
. . . . . “They do! I mean, magistrates. I mean, I do!” Diyos practically gasped at the audacity of the accusation.
. . . . . “Don’t forget that I’m your twin, Diyos, and I might be friendly and open, but I’m not stupid. I know you’re undergoing a dark night right now and struggling with your grasp of the Light. Get the white and gold, it makes you look almost like an exarch. Well? Hurry!”
. . . . . Startled to compliance by this uncharacteristic lecture from his dipsy, nerdish baby brother, Diyos hurried to his closet to change. As soon as he was out of sight, Athos leaned over the kitchen table to shift aside the blank paper and look at what his brother had been writing. He expected as much; those archaeologists were definitely not the peaceful, sedate researchers they’d been billed as, and this last year had been really hard on his big brother. What he needed, Athos figured, was a reminder of the beauty of the world. A reminder that not all adventures were dangerous or heavy, a reminder of the days when they were just two brothers out seeing the world.
. . . . . Diyos charged back into the kitchen, tugging his white and gold robes straight while simultaneously trying to fasten the belt of gold links around his waist. Athos was already away from the table, his excited, friendly smile back in place. He knew just the thing.
. . . . . “Hey, that’s nice and shiny, Diyos,” Athos said approvingly as he clapped a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
. . . . . Diyos scowled darkly at the word ‘shiny’ but trailed along behind Athos as he practically bounced on his hooves through the Park.

. . . . . “Oh good, you’re here! And in plenty of time. Not that time’s really an issue. I mean, look at all the folks standing about waiting. We’re going to have to wait. I hope you brought a book!” Kreli Conktoggle, the pink-haired, entirely dotty owner of the Canal Street bookstore where Athos worked chattered incessantly as soon as the twins showed up. Dutifully, Diyos lifted up the book he’d tucked under his arm to show Kreli, then proceeded to prop it open across his large hand to the fourth chapter and continue his reading. Since Kreli had already claimed them some space in the courthouse antechamber, he did his best to take it up by leaning against the wall while he read.
. . . . . The chatter increased in complexity as Athos engaged his boss and friend in a discussion about the applications of elemental energy in relation to temporal-spatial disruptions that had been spotted recently by adventurers at a volcanic mountain north of the city. Diyos tried hard to tune it out; the two of them on a discussion could make his head hurt faster than a dreamfoil hangover. Not that he was back on the dreamfoil, just a few nips of mead here and there. Reflexively, he let go of the page he was about to turn and checked his belt for his flask. Reassured it was still there, he turned the page and kept waiting.
. . . . . The room was so crowded and his attention so involved in the book, that he missed the two armored soldiers – a human and a draenei – with matching black and white tabards as they slipped into the antechamber, cut effortlessly through the crowd, and entered the courtroom. It was not long after that an assistant stepped out and called for Athos of Zangarmarsh.
. . . . . The magistrate sitting on the bench at the head of the room was the same steely-haired, steely-eyed woman who’d sentenced Athos a year ago. A certain tightness around her eyes was nearly a billboard of emotion to Diyos, trained as he was to recognize the cues. Something had her scared; maybe the earthquakes had unnerved her. He didn’t even think to look for an answer, mentally preparing the speech he’d been working on to outline the exemplary behavior of his brother during his probationary year.
. . . . . He never got the chance to deliver his speech. Judge Not-Hellscream clattered her gavel against the bench and tipped her head towards Athos as he stood. “You are free to go, sir. Your record has been expunged.” Her voice was steady, but her hand shook the gavel slightly. “Please, leave.”
. . . . . This last was so rude that Diyos gaped in shock, staring at the magistrate. But she was not addressing Athos directly – she was looking at two fully-armored soldiers standing at the back of the courtroom, their faces concealed beneath titansteel helms. Diyos recognized those colors... His indigo skin paled as the two soldiers simply tipped their helms in a nod to the magistrate, turned, and marched out.

. . . . . “Zat vas easy. It is a damned shame I could not have done it for zem sooner.”
. . . . . “What’s past is past, Commander. It’s taken care of now.”

. . . . . “What was that about?” Athos asked as they exited the courtyard and returned to the bustling Stormwind streets.
. . . . . “Looks to me like you had some powerful advocates this time,” Kreli chattered as he hurried to keep up with the much-broader draenei steps. “Do you know what ‘expunged’ means? It’s like it never happened! The record is totally gone! You’re not even an ex-offender; you never offended at all! This is great!”
. . . . . “Hmph,” is all Diyos said as they walked.
. . . . . “Diyos,” Athos said quietly as the three of them dodged around a dark-robed figure wearing a paper-covered clapboard on his chest and shouting about the end of the world, “I need your help.” No more perfectly-crafted words could have been said, and Athos knew it.
. . . . . It snapped Diyos out of his silent fugue immediately and focused his attention on his baby brother. “Of course, Athos! Just name it.”
. . . . . “I want to leave Stormwind.” Several feet closer to the street, Kreli gasped, but Athos continued, “I’m not as driven to see the world from on high like you, brother, but this world has much we haven’t seen yet in our first year of travels. Or at least, that I haven’t.”
. . . . . “It’s dangerous out there! I don’t want you getting hur-”
. . . . . Athos cut his brother off before he could get far with that. “I’m just as old as you are. We’ve been adventuring together for millennia. Quit leaning on that over-protective crap you’ve picked up since the crash and come with me. I’m going exploring with or without you – and I’d rather go with you.”
. . . . . “But…the obligations I have to the Company…”
. . . . . “Oh, posh,” Athos scoffed, borrowing a phrase from Kreli – who giggled to hear a draenei say it. “I know you’re trying to draft a resignation letter.”
. . . . . Diyos stopped in the middle of the street, staring at Athos like he’d just claimed himself in love with a top-hat-wearing murloc.
. . . . . Another dark-robed figure with a clapboard walked by, shouting, “Our world will be torn apart. Join us, so that you may live!”
. . . . . While Diyos stared, Athos jerked his thumb at the figure. “Hey, if those freaks are right, we’re on the edge of another shattering. I want to see this frozen north you’ve brought back all these stories about. Besides, it will give you time to consider whether or not you’re really going to write that letter.”
. . . . . “It just…” Diyos stammered, searching for words, “It seems so bluntly stated, brother. It’s like you switched bodies with someone else. Someone…not as bubbly and peaceful. And much more nosy.” That last was added with a grimace of distaste on Diyos’s face.
. . . . . Athos laughed and stepped forward to clap his brother on the back firmly and get him walking again. “Let’s go start packing the apartment; we don’t need to keep much with us if we’re travelling. I want to watch you float off those sky pillars you told me about. I want to see these grand, tall peaks of snow. Light, I really want to go see this magical flying city.”
. . . . . “You just want to see if you can enroll in the Dalaran University!”
. . . . . Athos adopted an expression befitting innocent children and newborn kittens. “Maybe.”
. . . . . “Ha. Caught you out.” Diyos was quiet a moment after they both saw Kreli back to his shop on Canal Street. As they walked back to the Park District, he spoke up again, “Fine. But we’re going to Ironforge first. I have a date with a mug of ale.”
. . . . . “Would you please stop celebrating your degeneration?!”
. . . . . “It’s not degeneration, brother. Think of it as a promise I need to keep. And to keep it, I need you at my side.”

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