C O M P O S I T O R
Written on November 11, 2019 (♏)
Author's Notes: Fun Fact: November 24th is, in fact, the day between Ornius Atkascha's birthday (the 23rd) and Delita Hyral's birthday (the 25th). I will pretend that there is some astrological significance to this despite not actually knowing anything about astrology. The title was taken from the profession in traditional printing wherein one arranges moveable type to create printable pages, an art I have decided bears some resemblance to arranging stars into meaningful narratives.
"Humor me, Olan. You're an astrologer," Delita said with almost embarrassing sincerity. Looking around to see if they were alone, he dropped his voice to a near whisper. "Tell me if you can. If it wasn't some phantasm you saw or fever dream you had, tell me when our stars might cross again. Tell me how long it might be for us to once more find ourselves together."
"I'm an astrologer, not some street market fortuneteller," Olan replied tersely. "I should also remind Your Majesty that I owe you precious few favors."
It was an audacious thing to say in the echoing chambers of Zeltennia castle, but Olan had grown increasingly bold over the past few years. Between the queen's death and his own disheartening discoveries, he had little patience for kings, for heroes, and for any number of men's romantic notions about destiny. He looked to Delita and wondered what he hoped the answer would be. The man seemed far older than his span of years, and it was becoming clear how heavily the crown he wore weighed upon his brow.
"Please, Olan." His voice grew dark. "Allow me to ask before you force me to order."
"Alight, I make no guarantees." He sighed with an irritated resignation. "I did not think you the sort to put much stock in fate."
A thought came upon him suddenly.
"I will, of course, need the circumstances of your births, Your Majesty--of any dates really that might be of consequence when your life last intersected with House Beoulve. The more detail I have..." He smiled very slightly. "...the more likely I can discern something of use to you."
"And the more certainly you will discern something of use to yourself, Durai." He looked up at the cold blue light the stained glass filtered in from the autumn sky above them. "I've heard rumors that the office of the Examiner is growing curious about your researches, by the way. You should be careful. "
"I always am around Your Majesty, I assure you."
He was told, over the next few days, that the notes he scratched out were to be effaced or burnt when he was done, and he did his utmost to maintain a professional sangfroid as regarded the king's confessions. He did not comment. He did not raise an eyebrow. He did not question save when he determined a detail was strictly necessary. He merely let Delita talk to him as his stylus cut quick lines in tablet wax, veiling his monarch's words as best he could in charts and symbols until every luminous memory of Gallione could be clacked out on an abacus.
It was less than a week before he had an answer. On the twenty-fourth November, wedged between the birthdays of the king that was and the king that might have been, Olan Durai proclaimed in private conference that Delita should not meet the likeness of his childhood friend again until four centuries had passed. He very pointedly cast his tablets into a fireplace and did his best to conceal his surprise when the king neither implored him for explanations nor chastised him for his answer. When they parted, neither man would have found any surprise in the notion that they might never meet again.
Fire of course, can't wipe away the impressions of a sharp mind, and Delita was not shocked when years later there were whispers out of Murond that a certain heretical report in the censor's offices contained very intimate details of his youth. He did nothing regarding it. He died well before the passage of four-hundred years and took any record or recollection of an ill-advised meeting with the last son of the Southern Sky along with him.
As such, there was no reason for the celebrated historian of a later age to imagine anything portentous or significant in the mundane botheration of correcting his proofs one night, when he thought it would be worthwhile to arrange that a block print of his subject be placed on the page adjacent that of Delita I. After having a lengthy and exasperated conversation with his agent about the expense of last minute pictures in a folio of all things, the publication of The Enigmatic War of the Lions was pushed back a whole month to accommodate his whims. At the end of that summer, however, anyone with gil enough for the extravagance of first editions could hold the likeness of Delita Hyral and Ramza Beoulve simultaneously before them--and after reading histories never meant for their eyes, they could also clap their books shut and press them close.