Phillip questions religion and we finally get to meet Yakinos Archer, Rion's lover and Apollo-worshipper. (All of which are barely relevant to the trilogy, but make a fun distraction for me.)
He was an odd man, was Lysander Yakinos Archer. Phillip sipped the burning quince gin as he surveyed the ‘study’ into which he had been hustled over half an hour ago. With windows capturing the summer day, the place hardly mimicked the quartered rooms of Costello Mansion.
From the edge of the bookcase swung a framed portrait of two bare men, their bodies tactfully angled away from the perspective. Their faces displayed an anguish Phillip knew all too well from their origin story. The lyre of Apollo dangled encouragingly.
Phillip sunk into the brown leather. Beside him sat Rion, who, too, eyed the room. Every time his pupils stretched over the oak table, a grin poured into the mould of his face. Hmm, quite unlike the grump.
“Do take a further glass from the decanter if it pleases. And you, Rion.”
The room reflected the taste of its master. Very occasionally, he lowered his glass to the table with a satisfying ‘clink’ and brushed a firm lock of chestnut hair away from his forehead. With olive-tan skin from the battlefield and straightened teeth, he gleamed in the light. That said, an air of something not quite right hung about the man and his slacks.
Rion was rather insistent on calling him a number of other names, from the middle name, Yakinos, to ‘Hicky’, short for the former, though Phillip thought ‘Yicky’ might have been more phonetically appropriate. He never explained the misnomer.
Phillip swilled his glass and looked at his brother. The man lounged, knee over knee, with one arm over the back of his chair, drinking in Lysander Archer’s talk of a battle-plan whilst he swigged from the fine glass crushed into his hands.
Lysander set his glass down once more, and lifted slender legs from the chair. “Excuse me. For the flourishing of this meeting…”
He turned his back to where a candle burnt in the corner of the room. Phillip finally focused his gaze upon it. Another sculpture to the god, this time a courteous one, decorated the alcove with a white marble cloak. (Though, Phillip found himself admitting, the sculpture wore no actual cloak).
Lysander sank to his knees and caressed hands over the crafted face of the long-haired god. His mouth moved with silent words.
Phillip pursed his lips as he eyed the painted deity. “Rion, what happened to our world of celebrators?”
Lysander still busied himself. Rion tore his eyes away from the man’s figure. “Pardon? What is it you mean?”
“Look to the candle.” Phillip nudged his brother. “We no longer have a culture of service to the ethereal. Why is that?”
“Dear boy,” Lysander said, “you shall find the answer in time and space. No one wishes to be dominated by characters they have to celebrate and obey consistently. We live in a society of men who take into their own hands their destiny.” He revelled in the final word for a moment with an upward twist of his lip.
“But…” Phillip tried to remember. They resembled not the gossamer spirits he had captured in his mind’s eye off the sticky pages of a storybook.
“You are wondering why I thus spend my –”
“Hicky, no,” interrupted Rion. “You have no reason to justify your –”
Lysander raised a sculpted eyebrow. “As if religion has caught your own eye more than material shapes, Rion. Let me speak.”
Wounded, Rion’s face turned a feminine shade of rouge.
The other continued, and Phillip leant forward on his elbows. “You wonder why I myself have something of a belief. I tell you: it runs through my veins. When one is brought up in genuflection and prostration…”
Rion smirked, but Lysander shot him a glare that wiped the glee from the inner sanctum of both their eyes. They were silent for a minute longer. Phillip shifted in his seat, quickly draining the rest of the gin, despite how he disliked its taste. At least it kept him from the intense competition between the two older men. Rion was positively beetroot, and Lysander had no less of a sheen colouring his high cheeks. His eyes danced as betrayers of something beyond his irritation.
“We simply were not brought up so,” enunciated Rion. To whom was he really making the point?
Lysander said nothing. One eyebrow hovered to the higher quarter of his forehead, and he lounged one arm over the other. Rion poured himself another glass and extended the decanter to the host’s. The gesture of pleasantry – if such a degree ever came from Rion’s heart – eased the tension. What made more sense was the appreciative glance Lysander gave. Of course Rion had an ulterior motive: for once, hardly treachery.
“Perhaps that is true.” Lysander’s eyes flickered to a spot on the wall beyond them. “My! Time has outdone itself in running away. I promised my mother that I would be present in the living room ten minutes ago. If you would excuse me, gentlemen.” His eyes settled on Rion’s. If Phillip hadn’t known better, he would have seduced the meaning from within the cornels of honey-brown.
The brothers decanted the comfy chairs and made for the door. Phillip had placed his hand on the doorknob when a throat-clearing split through the almost-silence. He turned, but Rion had been quicker. He stood a good metre from the door.
“If you would wait outside, Phillip. I would like to…talk…with Lysander.” He coughed.
“Peruse my library if you wish,” insisted Lysander.
Although he did as told, Phillip didn’t like the look that jumped between their eyes. Like the feisty plots of the novels of Mrs. L’Acrond, it crackled through the pulsating air, tangible when one breathed the wrong way.