Cosmodius was wandering through the fields and plains of his ancestors. He was watching beautiful Leto and her young daughter as they weaved together, the little girl in her shorter tunic fidgeting and wanting to join the hunt. He was flying through the skies in a golden chariot. He was standing over Orion’s dead body with a completely impassive expression…
A single wrong note drew Cosmodius from his reverie. He looked down at his hands, which still cradled the golden lyre, trying to see where he had made the mistake. He squinted. Somehow, without him realising it, the night had draped shadows over the room like dark dust-sheets in an abandoned house, and he could scarcely see. He frowned and stood up to light the candle, silently crossing the floor to the front door, which swung open without creaking.
There in the doorway stood Aramis, her cheeks flushed pink, her hair slightly dishevelled. She looked happier than she had been for a long time, and the slightly resentful tone of her voice seemed to have vanished as she embraced him as a loving sister. “Good evening, dear brother, I trust that you have had a productive day with your studies?”
They both settled down into the kitchen, Aramis peeling the mushrooms expertly with her fingernails, Cosmodius rubbing his golden instruments for diving with a clean rag. “Not as successful as I would have liked. But you seem happy, pray, tell me why.”
“But why so unsuccessful? Perhaps that is why you look so glum.”
“I am certain, he replied, a note of laugher in his serious voice, “that Mother told us never to answer a question with a question, but very well. You remember my gift, the gift of prophecy, of seeing what is soon to happen? I fear I am losing it, Aramis, and I’m worried.”
Aramis looked up from the fungi at the same time as Cosmodius looked up from his divining instruments. Her face was suddenly grave, as grave as his own reflected in her eyes. She reached out a hand and squeezed his, tightly. “Cosmodius, what do you mean by this? What has happened, and what does this mean for us?
“Just that I tried to scry this morning and I saw that the strange boy was coming today, but he did not come. If I had missed it… if I had missed what the signs were telling me, I could blame it on my own negligence, but to see a sign that was not there?” he sighed, reaching a distasteful conclusion. “I am surely no better than the oracles of old.”
Aramis squeezed his hand again, and in a timid voice, replied. “Cosmodius, the boy did come today.”
Suspicion clouded his mind even as the storm clouds of self-doubt parted to reveal the light of understanding. Why had Aramis not brought the boy in or told Cosmodius earlier of his visit? Images of Orion flashed across his mind like lightning, unbidden. She wouldn’t, he told himself, not after last time. But he doubted.
“I knocked at the door,” she continued, “to tell you that he had arrived, but you were playing your lyre so I knew you wouldn’t have heard.”
“What did you do then?” he asked sharply, politeness forgotten- was this why she looked so happy, because once again she had disobeyed him? Because she had risked everything she stood for, for a man? The slut!
“I watched from the shadows, for a while, and continued to pick mushrooms as he called for you.”
“How did he seem?”
“He walked like one defeated.” She smiled ruefully. “Worse even than yesterday, I think. And he has bruises all over him- I believe someone or something is really hurting the poor thing.”
“How did you see the bruises? Are your eyes really so sharp?”
“Yes, as well you know. But I did eventually reveal myself,” Rage rose in throat and he stood to his feet almost without thinking, His hands balled into fists. How dare she?
Aramis, watching him, afraid, raised a hand. “Let me finish, brother, then tell me if I did wrong. I revealed myself to him only when he had given up hope of finding us. He was weeping like a child and I knew if I said nothing, he would not come back. Therefore, I ceased hiding myself so that he knew we were not some strange dream-you know that he struggled to believe in us before- and I told him that you were anxious to be further acquainted with him but some important business had detained you. I suggested that he come again another day and I treated him in a perfectly respectable manner, brother, as befitted the situation. But tell me now; what would you have had me do? Let him leave and never return?”
Cosmodius sank back gratefully into the chair. “Give me something to drink,” he said, his anger dissipating as suddenly as it had appeared. Its left him limp, and cold. So Tobey had come, therefore he was not losing his gift. He could rest easy on that count. Secondly, Tobey had wanted to speak to him rather than Aramis, so there was less to fear there; and from Aramis’s account, she had behaved with the decorum he would have expected of her. Besides, Tobey was no Orion, he was forced to concede. Tall, yes, but skinny, like an underfed rabbit, and with crooked spectacles held together with some clear substance on the bridge of his nose, he was forced to conclude that there was little chance that his sister could be attracted to him. But still there was the problem of her unexplained smile. Why did she look so happy? He couldn’t understand it. Taking a sip of the ale she had poured, he continued to mull over this problem, but he had no answers for the thousands of questions running through his mind. Why now had she finally begun to smile again? What possible reason was there for her to be so joyful, other than that she had fallen in love?
“Very well,” he said finally, when he eventually admitted there were some things about his sister that he would never quite understand. He supposed it was the illogical nature of women. “You did right, Aramis, but why so cheery?”
She smiled again, and Cosmodius sighed. If she had smiled that way at Tobey, it would have been no wonder if he had fallen in love with her. “I confess that at first, I was cynical, and did not believe that we could ever do anything for him to compensate for what we did, however, today I see that you were right, and your friendship could be exactly what the boy needs. It makes me feel happy to think we are repaying our debt.”
“You are such a good sister to me.” he took another sip of ale. “And about O-“
She interrupted forcefully. “I know you did it for the best.” Her eyes were filled with tears for a split second, then she blinked, wiping them defiantly with the back of her hand. She composed herself so quickly he almost thought he had imagined it. “And let us not dwell on such dreary subjects. It was long ago. He is quite forgotten.”
“That’s for the best. Very well then,” he raised his glass. “To our life here together!”
“To debts repaid,” she smiled weakly, raising a glass herself.
They drank, and, until dinner was prepared, they sat in silence that was, Cosmodius realised happily, the silence of twins who are perfectly in agreement.