Never fear! I’ve posted the rest of this story, only in two parts because it’s longer than I expected and I don’t want you to have to scroll forever!
Do not read until you’ve read:
Alright, let’s finish this thing!
When Alexander returned to Kalathea, it was as a candlemaker and not as a king. He arrived in Lysandria, the capital city, driving a wagon full of honey, beeswax and every item that could be produced from these ingredients.
He found an apartment in the heart of the city and introduced himself to his curious neighbors as Alexander Freeman. (Coincidentally, this was the most common name in Kalathea.) Each day, he would push his cart to one of the city’s marketplaces, and make conversation with the locals.
He became the talk of the city, for a number of reasons. For one thing, everyone thought he looked vaguely familiar. For another, he wasn’t even slightly concerned about the increase in the number of Kaltish immigrants. When it came up in conversation, he would shrug and say: “Who wouldn’t want to live in Kalathea?”
Though the people warned him that Kalts were loud and rowdy and probably carrying diseases, he continued to keep their company. He even had two Kaltish assistants, a pair of identical twins, who followed him everywhere he went.
The strangest thing about him though, was that he did not fear the gods. In fact, he seemed to think that they were not gods at all, and that their power over humanity was limited by some magical law. His neighbors wondered if his Kaltish companions put the idea into his head. All the Kalts spoke similarly, but such irreverence was expected of Kalts.
The Lysandrians were suspicious of Alexander, at first, anyway. Everyone who got to know him, found him intelligent and pleasant. He seemed very concerned about how people were faring under the rule of the new gods, and would quietly seek out those who had suffered on their account and offer his assistance.
Overtime, his neighbors came to respect him, even if he was unusual. Word of his wisdom and generosity spread. The more the people grew to like him, the more they warned him to stop speaking ill of the gods. They told him that if he continued spouting blasphemies the gods would retaliate.
To this, Alexander smiled and replied: “I expect nothing less.”
Alexander lay awake, mulling over everything Eda told him before she returned to war. Each point was critical, yet complex. Or maybe he was just overthinking it and making it complex. He rubbed his aching forehead.
First, she reminded him, that any fairy that kills a human dies instantly. Second, if a fairy causes a human any physical pain, they will feel the pain in equal measure (though it may not be apparent, since fairies have a higher tolerance for pain). Last, she warned him sternly, not to use physical force against the twins. If a human attempts to hurt or kill a fairy, the fairy is free to kill without consequence.
Of course, Ilona responded to all Eda’s points by asking about every imaginable hypothetical situation. Like:
“If two fairies stab a human, killing him at the exact same time, which will die?”
Eda’s typical response was to roll her eyes and say: “Really? When would that ever happen?”
When Ilona persisted, thinking of even more strangely specific scenarios, Eda replied:
“Since I am not in the business of killing humans, I haven’t experimented with the boundaries of this law. I am sure Jace and Acacia could offer more insight.”
Sometimes Alexander wondered if Ilona enjoyed annoying Eda. Of course, Eda was easily annoyed.
Thinking of Ilona brought Alexander back to the present. He sighed and looked at the empty place in the bed beside him. Before leaving Kaltehafen, they made an agreement: they were to stay on the opposite sides of Lysandria and act as strangers on any chance encounter. This was for their mutual safety. The last thing Alexander wanted was for the twins to learn about their relationship and take her hostage.
It was a strange thing. He’d slept alone for nineteen years, but in less than two years of marriage, he’d gotten so accustomed to having her beside him, he couldn’t sleep without her. He should have been more comfortable with the bed to himself. Not only did Ilona take all the blankets, but she also seemed to become entirely knees and elbows at night, unconsciously jabbing his every vulnerable point.
Alexander thought back to the day they parted ways. They held each other for such a long time that Filbert and Florian had to pull them apart, scolding them, and telling them that they had been married too long to be so much in love.
Incidentally, Ilona made her brothers swear they wouldn’t leave Alexander’s side. Even now, they were sleeping in the room adjacent, ready to wake up and apprehend him if he attempted to sneak out. Living with them in close quarters was driving Alexander insane. Then again, he probably went insane long before his journey, around the time he agreed to Ilona’s plan.
“We destroy them the way they destroyed you,” she explained. “But instead of spreading lies, we spread the truth.”
The poison was working against the twins. It seemed that every day Alexander heard murmurs in the marketplace. Snippets of conversation: “Do you think it’s true?” “What would happen if we resisted?” “Why should we submit to their cruelty?”
Though there was much talk about the limits to the twin’s power, until someone was brave enough to confront the gods and test the theory, no one was likely to resist them.
Alexander woke to the sensation of something crawling across his blanket, directly over his chest. He opened his eyes to see Filbert and Florian both standing over him with horrified expressions.
Filbert had his blade raised and Florian was holding his arm whispering: “Don’t, you’ll kill Alexander.”
“What’s crawling on me?” Alexander grumbled.
“It’s a crab demon with a catapult stinger on its rear!” Florian hissed. “Don’t move!”
Alexander rolled his eyes. He gripped his blanket and sat up slowly, allowing the enemy to slide into his lap. Then he took the lamp from beside his bed and crushed the crab-demon to oblivion. Filbert and Florian made a horrified gasp with each blow.
Alexander took the flattened remains by the tail and held it up for the twins to see. He couldn’t help but smile as they shrunk backward.
“This is a scorpion,” he explained.
“What happens if it stings you?” Filbert asked.
Alexander widened his eyes in mock horror.
“Heaven forbid!” He exclaimed. “You might end up with an itchy swelling on your arm! Even warriors such as yourselves couldn’t bear it!”
The horror faded from their faces. Filbert lowered his blade.
“You’re hilarious,” Florian remarked. “Any other demon creatures you forgot to warn us about?”
“Let me think,” Alexander began. “Lots in the sea, on land just the scorpion. Oh, and the rock viper. Hides in the brush, the bite is lethal. So don’t step on it.” He yawned, tossed the scorpion aside, and pulled the blanket over his head. “Other bugs I think… I dunno.”
“Why on Earth do you want this kingdom!” Filbert complained. “It’s full of bity, stingy, things!”
“Don’t bother them, they won’t bother you,” was Alexander’s muffled response.
“That scorpion was definitely trying to kill you!” Filbert protested, then paused when the sound of some commotion rose up from the street.
Alexander leapt out of bed and threw open the window. The entire Senate (he counted twice just to be sure), was standing in the center of the square as if dropped there from above. Beside them stood two beautiful figures dressed in silk and adorned with gold. He guessed these were the twins. People were pouring out of the houses and side streets curious to see what horror was about to take place.
Alexander dressed quickly and threw open his door. Florian grabbed his shoulder.
“Us first,” he ordered. Then pushed passed Alexander.
Alexander grumbled to himself. He appreciated their help, but wished they wouldn’t treat him like a child.
“I’m so glad you’ve all come!” Acacia announced, as the crowd gathered round. “I think you are going to like what we have to tell you!”
“It’s come to our attention,” Jace began. “That many of you are beginning to question whether you should follow us.”
“It’s only natural that you would,” Acacia soothed. “Doesn’t every child question their parents from time to time?”
Alexander worked his way toward the front of the crowd, ignoring Filbert and Florian’s orders to stay back.
“And when children rebel, isn’t it necessary for their parents to correct them?” Acacia added.
“Certainly!” Jace agreed. “Not to punish of course, but merely to explain why they need their parent’s guidance?”
Alexander stopped behind the first line of spectators. Up close, he recognised many of the senators and didn’t want to risk being recognized himself.
“You need us because you are evil,” Jace explained. “It’s that simple. You fight, you steal, you act selfishly, and you need us gods to…” He smiled venomously. “Help you practice virtue.”
“We’ll show you what we mean,” Acacia continued, then gestured to the senators behind her. “You, the people, have decided that these men are the wisest in your kingdom and most worthy of respect.”
A few of the spectators snickered.
“You’ve selected them to govern over you, to represent you. Yet there is not an honest man among them.”
The woman adjacent to Alexander, rolled her eyes and mumbled: “I’m shocked.”
Those around her stifled their laughter.
“Each of these men,” Acacia continued. “Has claimed to be superior to the others. Some by their intellect, some by their deeds, and some by being of noble birth.”
“Now we demand a sacrifice,” Jace smiled. “And we, as gods, demand only the best that humans can offer.” He turned to the senators. “Tell me which of you is the greatest? That man will be sacrificed.”
The square suddenly became so silent you could hear a scorpion scuttling on the cobblestone. The senators all looked at each other.
“Well, gentlemen?” Acacia pressed. “You always seemed so sure about this before. Why the hesitation?”
That’s when Alexander became aware of an opportunity, one he couldn’t afford to miss. He broke from the crowd. Filbert and Florian muttered profanities as he slipped from their grasp and stood before the twins.
“I’ll make this easy for you,” he exclaimed. “I am the greatest by virtue of my birth and I would gladly offer myself as a sacrifice to the gods.” The corner of his lip turned up very slightly as he added: “I only ask that they would honor me, by taking my life with their own hands.”
“It’s true!” cried one of the senators. “This is Prince Alexander, son of our late King Basil. No one can claim to be more worthy than him!”
The entire Senate agreed. All affirming his identity (even the few who hadn’t met him), and acknowledging his kingship.
A murmur ran through the crowd as Alexander’s neighbors suddenly realized why he looked familiar.
Meanwhile, Jace and Acacia burst out laughing and didn’t stop until they had almost suffocated themselves.
“You know something?” Jace coughed. “I can’t remember the last time I was surprised!”
“Delightful? Isn’t it?” Acacia replied. “I’d almost forgotten how it felt! You’ve done us a great service, Your Majesty!”
“Why don’t we spare him?” Jace suggested. “He can pick which senator should be sacrificed.”
“Excellent suggestion!” Acacia answered. “How about him?”
She pointed to one of the men Alexander remembered as being particularly supportive of his execution.
Alexander furrowed his brow, and stood silently for a moment as if deep in thought. What he was actually doing was reading the crowd. The Kalatheans were captivated by the scene unfolding before them, eager to see to see how Alexander was going to test their gods. The Kalts were watching the Kalathean guardsmen posted around the square. Most of them were Filbert and Florian’s knights, present to protect Alexander and their own kings if trouble arose.
Filbert and Florian were both motioning to Alexander, in an attempt to communicate their displeasure without revealing themselves. Alexander responded to them with a subtle shrug.
Then he answered the fairies. “By my order, we will not sacrifice anyone to you, because you are not gods and we owe you nothing. If you want someone sacrificed, you will have to do it yourselves.”
How such a large crowd could go so silent, Alexander didn’t know. It was like everyone was holding their breath, waiting to see what the gods would do to him.
“He’s much bolder, than I remember,” Jace smirked. “Last time I saw him, it seemed the only word he knew was ‘Fausta’.”
Acacia put her hand on her brother’s shoulder and gave him a nostalgic smile. “Oh yes! I remember that! Even when she finally sentenced him, he couldn’t quite comprehend her betrayal. He just kept saying her name until they dragged him off.”
Alexander felt himself wincing at their words, an anger more pure and more ravenous than any he’d ever felt before was bubbling up inside him. And that was exactly what they wanted. He breathed deeply and silently prayed for the grace to keep calm.
“I know what you are,” Alexander stated. “I cannot force you to leave, but I will not serve you either, and I will not allow you to terrorize my people any longer.”
“Is that so?” Acacia smiled, then looking up at the crowd, held up her finger: “A moment, please.”
All at once, Alexander was standing in a private room in the palace. Jace and Acacia were both lounging on couches looking at him as if he’d just played an excellent practical joke.
“Why are you here?” Jace asked. “I mean why are you really here? Is it because you want vengeance or because you cannot resist the chance to be a king?”
Alexander turned his back to them. He knew they had no interest in dialogue. They were trying to manipulate him. The more he engaged them, the more tools they would have at their disposal.
“No, no,” Acacia answered her brother. “You see, taking vengeance or reclaiming his kingdom would be handling his problems. It’s Alexander’s nature to ignore his problems and hope they go away. Just as he is ignoring us now.”
“So why do you think he is here?”
“Hhhhhmmm,” Acacia thought. “Probably guilted into it by some internal sense of duty.”
Alexander turned back to them. “I have nothing to say to you privately. Now return me to my people or I will walk back on my own.”
“Aren’t you going to ask—” Jace began.
“No,” Alexander snapped.
“Where your sister is?” Jace finished.
Alexander’s heart pounded. He desperately wanted to know this. It was bait. He wouldn’t bite.
“No,” he affirmed and began walking toward the exit.
Suddenly, he found himself stumbling backward and landed with a splash in a shallow pool of water. When his alarm wore off and he was able to orient himself, he saw that he was sitting in a fountain in the square where he began.
The place was still crowded with people, talking among themselves as they tried to make sense of events.
Alexander couldn’t believe it. The twins threw him into a fountain. He had no idea why it made him so angry. Afterall, he was expecting them to torment him, or find some round-about way of killing him. He never expected something so juvenile. Were they superior beings or spiteful little children?
A woman nearby noticed his stumble, and rushed over to offer him her hand. He couldn’t help but smile when he recognized Ilona.
“Your Kaltish assistants are looking for you,” she said as she pulled him to his feet. “They seem very upset. One of them was saying, if the gods returned you safely, he is going to kill you himself. You are really irritating the twins, you know.”
“Which twins?” Alexander asked.
“Both pairs, actually,” she grinned. “Well done!”
Alexander glanced around. The people nearby were starting to notice his reappearance and spreading word to their neighbors.
He gave Ilona’s had a little squeeze and said: “Thank you, Miss.”
She replied with a warm smile before disappearing into the crowd.
As he stepped out of the fountain, the people circled around him, all talking at once, all asking him and each other, what happened and where he’d been. Then one of them remembered he was King and knelt before him. All the others followed suit.
As Alexander stood, wet and disheveled, looking over his kneeling subjects, he turned slightly pink and remembered how much he hated being the center of attention. He forgot his humiliation, however, when Jace and Acacia appeared on either side of him. They were looking particularly smug. Acacia was tossing an apple between her hands playfully.
“Alright, Your Majesty,” Acaca sighed. “My brother and I discussed it and agreed to surrender your kingdom peacefully if—”
“I don’t need you to surrender anything,” Alexander asserted. “This kingdom never belonged to you and it isn’t yours to return to me.”
“But you do want us to leave, don’t you?” She asked sweetly.
“Absolutely,” Alexander replied.
“We will leave you all in peace, if you prove yourself worthy by passing three trials.”
“No,” Alexander returned. “Why do you keep acting like this is some kind of negotiation? I can’t make you leave, but I am not going to serve you either. Stay or go, it’s up to you.”
Jace reached out and grabbed Alexander by the sleeve. There it was. That inhuman strength and the powerlessness he felt every time he was confronted with it.
“We’ve tried to be patient with you, Alexander,” he threatened. “But I am afraid your insolence requires a firmer hand.”
“Fine, punish me!” Alexander snapped. “Call down fire from Heaven to consume me! Crush me beneath the rubble of these buildings! Send me to my God however you see fit!”
The amusement subsided from the twin’s faces. When they made no immediate response, Alexander looked at the sky with an expression of mock concern.
“Is Heaven out of fire?” He jested.
A few of the spectators chuckled. It was only then that Acacia demonstrated her superhuman strength. She crushed the apple she was holding in her fist. It exploded sending pulp flying in all directions. She jumped and looked at the sticky mess in her palm with disgust.
She drew a cloth from the air and used it to wipe her hand clean.
“I’m not omnipant or anything, but if you can materialize a cloth couldn’t you simply dematerialize the pulp?” Alexander observed.
The crowd erupted into laughter.
Jace released Alexander’s shoulder with a little shove sending him tumbling to the ground.
“Arrest him!” Acacia ordered.
Alexander leapt to his feet and looked to see if the guards were obeying. He prayed they wouldn’t. The Kalts would rush to his aid, and the last thing he wanted was Kalts and Kalatheans fighting.
He saw some approaching to his dismay. Even if he ordered the Kalts not to interfere, Filbert and Florian wouldn’t listen.
“Stop!” One of the senators shouted and rushed to block Alexander. “Did we not just acknowledge him as King?”
Alexander recognised the man. He had a C name, it was… Constans, Clemens… Clement. That was it. He had been on the Senate since the dawn of time and Alexander used to wonder if he kept getting reelected because he was especially qualified, or if it was because the people just couldn’t imagine the government without him in it.
He addressed the twins. “If you want to punish him do it yourselves!”
All the people cried out in agreement. The rest of the Senate, fearing their voters more than any kind of god, also ordered the guards to stand down.
Jace exchanged a look with his sister. She mouthed something to him and he responded with a nod.
Then, all at once, Alexander couldn’t draw breath. No one was touching him, he couldn’t feel anything in his throat, yet he couldn’t inhale.
“Is something wrong, Your Majesty?” Acacia questioned. “You look a little pale.”
Alexander looked at Jace. He was standing just behind his sister. His arms were crossed and his brow was furrowed. Alexander could see his own pain reflected in Jace’s eyes.
Jace couldn’t torment him indefinitely, relief had to be imminent. Alexander crumbled to his knees gasping unsuccessfully. Suddenly, air filled his lungs, never in his life had anything tasted so sweet. His breath left him again, as quickly as it returned.
Jace was now standing before him, releasing a string of vile insults while Acacia stood aside in pained silence. They were switching places, sharing the burden so they could continue tormenting him. Until what? Which ever one killed him would die too.
Alexander crumpled to the ground, then everything faded and he remembered no more.
Just kidding, here’s the rest: How to Fight a Fairy Part 2.2
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