Three Years After We Won A War

© 2000 by Torquemada

This page was last modified: 2000/10/16


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"What's up in your mind, bro?"

I look down and meet Bud's narrowed witty eyes. He is idly chewing a stalk of some herb; his head rests on my lap. An idyllic picture of a happy family.

"Your weight, oh fat one," I answer in equally mocking manner.

"Indeed? Let me ask you, oh gracious one, when did you see yourself in the mirror last time?"

I open my mouth to say something in the same line, but am interrupted mercilessly by a very familiar bass.

"Well, well, well... you two faggots can't get enough of each other, can you? I wonder if you ever split up when you have to go to the privy!"

There's only one person in the world who can call us bad names and cause not an insult, but wide grins of both of our faces.

Thor. And indeed it's his majestic figure that looms over us, obstructing the sunlight; all we can see is his bright smile.

"Go to Hell, Thor!" Bud spits the stalk and greets the giant in our usual manner. We three created this gleeful ritual few years ago, and it seems we'll never get bored of it. We are very good friends, as one may see from this conversation.

"What's new in Capital City?" Thor again.

"Nothing, really. And how are the provinces doing?"

"The same. Any fresh wind about the Family?" Obviously Thor asks if the Royal Couple already has an offspring. I shake my head.

"That's bad. Well, gotta go great Their Majesties. See you in the castle, lazy buggers." Thor winks at us and goes away.

"And your momma too, trunk!" That's Bud's equivalent of 'I'm very glad too see you here, and I missed you'.

I suddenly feel I don't want to lay idling under the warm sun anymore. Thor's arrival reminded me of my duties and awakened some grim thoughts, what is much worse.

"Get off me, you fat cat," I say to my brother. "I got my responsibilities to do."

"We know your so-called responsibilities," he grumbles, but rolls off.

I stand up and stretch. I do have responsibilities, whatever Bud may say, and now when guests already have started to arrive, I will have a lot of a job to do.

That's good. More job, less time to think.

"See you later, then."

"See ya." Bud stays. As the member of Her Majesty Queen Hilda's Personal Guard, he will not have much to do until the Ceremony starts.

I stride towards the Castle, noting carriages of guests on my way and accounting in mind accommodation, lodging, dining expenses and all that boring stuff. Yet I can't escape from thinking about things I prefer to forget forever.

Damn Thor; it's all his fault.

It was his question about a Heir to the Throne that triggered the avalanche of other thoughts. It is strange indeed why after 3 years of marriage the Royal Couple is still childless.

Considering a few babies that were born in these years by some of Dames of the Court and what the Court still keeps whispering about, it was definitely not the King's fault. I've seen the little buggers; they all have these poisonous green eyes, the firm trademark of his bloody Majesty. So everyone blames Hilda, and if things will go on like that, it's only a question of time when the Royal Maternal Line of Heir will be changed into a Paternal one. He definitely has got his feet warm under the table, our little Alberich.

I enter the Dining Hall and see the typical picture of a moderated orgy, however strange this word combination may sound. Lots of guests already have arrived, and they enjoy such pastime. Almost all of the Court is present, too.

The King stretches himself on the throne like a cat. One leg is thrown over the throne's arm. A poser he is, a poser he will die, the sooner the better. Occasionally, he throws meaningful glances at Hagen, who draws all the attention of the female audience, as he always does. Nobody can resist his drop-dead-gorgeous appearance. None from what I know, at least. Beware, kid, for the King hates to be the second in anything. You may be the next to... you know what.

One hand of Hagen grasps the cup of wine (at least he starts to learn how to behave in public, and quit quaffing ale by a hornful), the other twirls a golden lock of Poseidon's ambassador for this year's Ceremony. They sent a woman this year, her name's Thethys, if I remember correctly. Well, that's better than that red eyed flutist on the First Ceremony and much better than the thing they sent last year, who got drunk and created a total mess by pretending to be nearly every guest. I can barely hold sniggering when I remember how Hagen looked, when he discovered that the smart redhead he picked up was really Poseidon's warrior. Only his reputation as a cruel and merciless warrior saved him from jokes and pranks.

But now, as long as I can see, everything goes just fine. The blonde cutie glues her admiring eyes onto Hagen's suntanned face; her hand never leaves his elbow; I can forecast what will be next: "Oh, Lord Hagen, would you be so kind and bring me something to read for the night?" or "Lord Hagen, please come to wish me sweet dreams". And the constant answer: " It will be my greatest pleasure, Milady."

Not too long ago he still had some decency to creep out to his rooms at night, trying to stay unnoticed in darkness. Now he strides through hallways whenever he gets up and leaves the rooms of all those cats in heat; in pure daylight, with not the smallest trace of shame, like a common stallion. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he ranted his victories on some tool in his rooms. Or keeps a diary with neat calculations. But no, it's not the skill of writing which is Hagen's forte.

The green-eyed malevolence on the throne finally deigns to notice me. He waves at me, ordering me to come closer. 'Sod you', I think, but it's my duty, and I approach him, trying to collect my non-existing respect into a whole piece.

While passing by Hagen (he does not see me, all sunk into the blue eyes of his current prey), I overhear the beginning of the joke: "Once upon a time animals of the forest decided to build a bridge, and the wolf..."

Talking of wolves, Fenrir will show up last of all us. He always does. Being both antisocial and a pack creature, he hardly stands all of this Ceremony matter, so he usually chooses the last minute to arrive.

Like Thor he is in Capital City only during Ceremonies; a difference is that Thor, who has always been Hilda's most trusted bodyguard, accepted his exile with a mute pain, while Fenrir's estrangement was the decision of his own. He was visibly relieved when the Royal Couple let him go; yet he has to be present for every Ceremony, and Alberich insists on his wolves to be here, too. Fenrir's wolves are afraid of Alberich, they sense the ferocious wild cat in him, as he indeed is; and it is never the wolf who's winner in the battle between wolf and wild cat. That's exactly why Alberich needs these wolves. He enjoys waving his superiority like a flag.

Lady Freya, the only sister of the Queen, sits next to the King. She looks like a beautiful doll; mind you, she always looked like that, with not too much brain and a miserable amount of willpower. But now she looks as lifeless as a doll in addition.

There were many candidates to her hand and heart when it became clear that Hagen was no longer interested in her. Hagen never forgave Freya her behaviour during the Great War (Great War, yeah; all it lasted was exactly one day, that "Great" War). Though he killed the boy that was the reason, it seems he's not one of the people who can forget and forgive. Shortly after that, Hagen discovered an ocean of pleasures he missed while warrioring and being faithful to Freya, and he began to enjoy them with no limits and modesty, as he tried to regain the time he lost.

Now he even doesn't look at Freya. And her hollow look never stops on Hagen, while wandering around aimlessly.

Back to Freya... The King suddenly showed a firm resistance to find her a husband. He motivated it by the very young age of Freya, but now all the Court can freely gape at his true motivation. One mustn't be too observant to notice how he touches her shoulder, or her knee. Openly, without any trace of shame.

Earlier Freya winced painfully all the time he touched her. Now she showed no reaction at all. Probably Alberich finally got what he wanted.

Siegfried used to have a soft spot on her, as he has on every helpless creature unable to protect itself. And he definitely wouldn't let Hagen fall so low.

But Siegfried is dead.

"Ah, Syd," I reach the Throne. "Find Mime, will you? I am sure our guests want to listen to his music. And if you find my wife, tell her to come here immediately."

"I'm at your command, Your Majesty." I say the compulsory formula, bow and back to the door, without turning my back on him, though this is the No.1. thing on my "Strongest Wishes For Now" list.

'Tell her to come here!' How dares this wretch address the rightful Queen of Asgard like that? As if it's not enough that he, who married the most beautiful woman of Asgard, now constantly stains her name with his dirty affairs?

Again, my way leads through the place where Hagen sits.

"Will you come this night, my precious?"

Something new, wow. Very straightforward, this girl.

"It will be mine's greatest pleasure, Milady."

At least the answer's the same.

I find Mime in his room as I expect. He is playing his harp, guess what else he may be at? I convey the King's orders, Mime nods but doesn't seem like he rushes to obey them immediately. Mime looks as he's completely unafraid of the King. Moreover, Alberich himself tends to avoid him, and that is really amazing. If Mime never had any other fascinating features, I would like him just for this one.

I hesitate to leave; questions are eating me, and suddenly I feel an urge to ask him. It's now or never.

"Mime?"

"Yes?"

I grip on my mind.

"Does it ever happen to you that you sense something weird is around us? Something very wrong, out of place, so creepy that it doesn't have a right to exist? I mean, this world, has it ever seemed to you ...twisted and unreal? Or maybe have you even had this strange feeling that you..." I catch my breath and all the courage. "...you have to be dead?"

Ting, ding, a-dling, ming. -- The harp.

"No. Never."

One thing about Mime is, that you can never really tell if he lies to you or not. I have never seen so much self-control in one person.

"Right, then. Sorry to disturb you."

"Syd?"

I let go of the doorhandle. Mime looks at me, his eyes two setting suns in an ocean of indifference.

"Never say such thing in the presence of the King or people of his clique. Please."

"I won't. Thank you for a warning."

"Not at all."

I close the door as silently as possible.

Queen Hilda is probably in her favourite place where the sea meets the high bank. To reach it, I have to go through a square and pass the statue of Odin. There's no way I can avoid them.

Please, Gods, give me the wings of a bird. Or the ability to teleport. Whatever, and take all what you want, but do something that I will never again have to see or hear about this bewitched place.

But as I mentioned, there's no way to avoid it. The Gods pretend they don't hear me. As always. And there's no way for my memories not to creep out, when I am near this doomed place.

Siegfried... and the others.

Why oh why didn't Bud kill his enemy then, during the so-called Great War? As Mime killed his; it was impossible to feel Mime's power on oneself and stay alive. Hagen killed his enemy. So did -- with a lot of pleasure, I suppose -- our present King, long may he rot in Hell.

Bud, my soulpart, why have you pitied your enemy then? You wanted to save your opponent, as he didn't want to kill you... but nobody knew then, what fate was prepared for our enemies by our honorable King, may he suffer from diarrhea for all eternity.

That enemy of ours, he was just a boy; shy, delicate and so reluctant to fight -- not because of fear, but he was one of them rare nature's pacifists. Not like his brother who had the luck to cross Mime's path and thus hadn't seen what death Alberich invented for his brother. And those two masked girls; they were unmasked before their execution, and not just that, I have a strong suspicion. And yet another boy. All they had such a look on their faces as if they still couldn't believe what was happening and the hope that the next minute this bad dream would be over.

But the killer trees of Alberich were far too real for a nightmare.

Good that I wasn't forced to watch these executions. Alberich wanted me to, of course, but that was still before the wedding, and he wasn't that powerful yet, not like he is now.

But Siegfried's punishment was compulsory for all of us. A lesson to be learned.

He was accused of betraying his country, his Queen, his God. He denied the fact of treason, but all was set up before, and he had no chance at all to get a fair trial.

Alberich decided that his trees were to fast and to easy a death for a despicable traitor -- it is indeed a very merciful death to be torn into pieces by killer trees, I grant you -- and Siegfried was condemned to the Amethyst Coffin.

He took it with his natural dignity and entered the square -- his place to die -- calmly and worthily. All evidence was against him; but there, looking at him, I began to doubt whether he was really guilty. Now my doubt has grown into the firm belief he was innocent after all. He was too fair and too just for these particular days, and moreover -- the most serious obstacle on Alberich's way to the Throne.

All we wished him was to die as quickly as possible. But his willpower was always too strong, and Alberich probably decreased the draining power of his stone to minimum, so the agony was unbearably long. For us, I mean, because what he felt there ... no, I won't go through this again. No way. Not again.

How could Hilda allow this to happen? Even if she felt for Alberich, which I sincerely doubt. How could she?

There. The square's almost done, Odin's statue casts a gigantic shadow over the place, and now I'm stepping onto it...

...a desperate voice, pleading: "Odin, of Valhalla Aesir! Please help me! Please!"

And a thunderous answer, full of divine wrath and overwhelming disdain:

"Worthless stranger, you are asking me to turn against my own country? How dare you!"

Oh no, not again these false memories. False or not, they give me pain like a real thing. I start to run -- hurry, leave this haunted place as soon as possible.

I do find Queen Hilda in her favourite place. The sun is almost set, and the last rays of it colour the Queen's hair into a mild shade of light pink-violet. Suddenly her figure recalls something in me -- the apparition of someone I don't know but have a feeling I must know; for some reason I expect to see a golden aura surrounding the figure. But then the obsession dissolves, and all I see is just Queen Hilda, small and fragile in her white dress.

After her wedding she suddenly lost interest in the old black-and-red outfit that she used to wear for some period. With it, she seemed to lose the black-and-red personality and regained the previous one we all were used to.

But it was far removed from the former one. More like a tortured shadow of that earlier personality.

Alberich was grinning maliciously and uttering crap like "marriage does wonderful things to women". And suddenly Hilda's treasured golden ring she got so attached during her black-and-red period ended on Alberich's finger. There's a custom to change your rings, but on the wedding day, not on the first night...

"Your Majesty?" I venture.

Hilda shudders and turns to me.

"Syd! I didn't hear you coming. You walk like a cat -- no sound at all, do you know that?"

I do a polite bow.

"I humbly ask Your Majesty to forgive me for scaring her." I do walk like a cat, but this time I was making a lot of noise for the very purpose not to scare her. Yet she hasn't noticed me approaching.

Hilda smiles faintly.

"Stop curtseying, Syd, it doesn't befit you. Besides, we are good friends, aren't we?"

How can I tell her that his Majesty Alberich was very strict about how we all have to behave in front of him and the Queen? Not that he wants her to be respected, but more to keep her away from her friends and other unnecessary things. We obey his orders as a sacred thing -- Siegfried's death still haunts our memories -- a perfect example what happens to enemies of our King, may he smell as ten thousand privies. But he was right then. The lesson was learnt.

"Your Majesty's presence is required by your guests, Milady."

No way in hell I'm telling her that her dearest husband demanded her presence, and in what tone!

"Have the guests arrived already? So soon... it seems the last Ceremony is just over, and here we have yet another..." The Queen sighs in embarrassment. "Syd, would you be so kind to remind me which of the Ceremonies has to be first? I seem to be constantly forgetting that -- I guess I will forget my own head next."

If it was someone else, I would be sure I was mocked. But I believe the Queen.

"First there goes the Day of Victory, Your Majesty. Then, after 4 days, there's the Wedding's Anniversary".

An entire week of entertainment.

Hilda smiles distantly. "Yes, I remember the Day of the Victory. When we won a war three years ago, a war against invaders from Southern Lands..."

I stare at her, genuinely surprised.

"What Southern Lands, your Majesty?"

"The invaders were from there, weren't they?" Expectantly, she looks at me.

"The invaders were just a puny group of conspirators against us and Poseidon, Your Majesty. Some of them were his runaway rebellious vassals, some were from our parts..."

The Queen looks at me as if she can't believe what I'm saying.

"What? No more Southern Lands?"

"There aren't any Southern Lands, Your Majesty." My, she must be seriously ill; that bastard Alberich! "There's only the Infinite Ocean in the southern direction where Poseidon -- remember him? -- rules. No land at all, Your Majesty. And it never was."

And suddenly the weird look in Hilda's eyes disappears, as if it never was there. She gives me a worried, pleading smile. "Don't tell him", it says. You never have to worry about that, My Queen. I will never tell 'him' anything.

"I am so embarrassed, Syd. Shame on me, constantly daydreaming like that. But now I'm fine, really. Let's go."

I follow her, trying to find cthe ourage to cross the square so soon after I did.

Is it because of that my heart feels so sad?

The End


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