Again, apologies for last week’s error. To be perfectly honest, what follows is not in fact either of the two pieces I’ve begun with intent to post on the blog. Neither of those is anywhere near having a satisfactory ending. Here’s this, then: a little something pulled from an old folder. This is loosely inspired by the mythic character Talos, nephew of Daedalus and cousin of Icarus.
He killed Icarus with the young king’s own sword and left him bleeding and empty-eyed on the dais. “Your father was right, cousin,” Talus said, pausing as he reached the doorway and turning to address the splayed, lifeless figure. “Wings can take you places you ought not to go.” The wings in question gave a final spasm, then fell still, draped in tragic downfall across the marble steps.
It really was a pity, Talus mused, leaving the hall. Icarus — flight-blessed, gods-charmed Icarus — might have been the first of a race of winged men. As far as Talus was concerned, however, his cousin had long since forfeited the right to such an honor. Talus’s wrists burned at the thought, the skin there patchy with the oozing, half-healed marks of manacles. He glanced down the length of his arm to the sword, pondering it for an instant, turning it this way and that to admire the engraved gold feathers which adorned the hilt and crossguard.
“Oh, yes, you were arrogant,” he said to the sword, licking his thumb and rubbing at a rusty stain on one of the feathers. “Arrogant as Hybris. But a good judge of a blade.”
Talus sheathed the sword, pleased at its weight and balance. He’d left Icarus his crown; his sword would serve well enough as a sign of his defeat. It wasn’t Icarus’ crown to begin with, at any rate. It had been first the crown of Minos, and had been taken from his bloody brow by Icarus as the mob seethed and cheered around them. That had been ten years ago, and Talus had only learned of his cousin’s triumphant usurpation when he, a boy of eleven, was dragged from his bed and down into the palace depths.
But this, what he did now, was not usurpation. This was birthright.
The palace was empty, most of its denizens out reveling in the summer festival. Why Icarus had remained here alone, Talus did not know; to him it was insignificant, for the deed was done and the palace folk would return tonight and find themselves with a new king. Talus’s blood stirred even to think of it, even to imagine their faces — they for whom Icarus had been a golden godsend, a talisman as much as a ruler — when they saw their icon slain and Minos’s long-forgotten bastard wielding Icarus’s sword.
Talus had not smiled in nearly a decade, and when he did so now, it was something other than a smile. It was something which had crouched too long in the dark and the stink and the seeping damp; something which had forgotten its own name. Twining his fingers about the swordhilt at his side, Talus hesitated a moment, considering what he might do next. His own words returned to his mind: “Your father was right.”
The smile-which-was-not grew broader, harsher. There was one other who would not be carousing today, he realized. There was one other to whom much was owed — as much or more than Icarus had deserved. After all, Icarus had been quite agreeable as a child, when he and Talus has been playmates in the labyrinthine palace gardens. It had taken someone else’s leading to make him the man who murdered Minos and took his throne.
Daedalus was exactly where Talus had known him to be, hunched over his workbench in the back room of his apartment, feverishly sketching upon a broad, note-cluttered sheet of parchment. Talus did not attempt to muffle his steps as he entered the room, and the aged inventor cast him a quick, nearsighted glance of appraisal before returning to his planning.
“What do you want?” Daedalus said shortly. “I’m very busy. If you’ve a question, ask it and get out.”
“No questions, Uncle.” Talus’ steps slowed, but he kept moving towards the desk, tapping a bacchanal rhythm upon the hilt of Icarus’s sword with his fingertips.
Daedalus seemed to take the term as derogatory, for he put down his stylus and looked up, at last giving his full attention to the armed young man who walked like a cat approaching trapped prey. “I’ve nothing worth stealing,” he said, edging around his desk to put it between himself and Talus. “And my son will see you and your family executed should you attempt anything against me.”
“My family’s dead already, Uncle,” said Talus, “save you.” His gaze was fixed on the form of the inventor rather than on any particular part of him; already he was anticipating the struggle, the defenses Daedalus would make use of. He could see in the limp lines of Daedalus’s face that the truth had not yet come to him, and so Talus went on speaking: “Don’t you recall, Uncle? My mother died in bearing me — and surely you grieved long for her, for I can remember how you stilled whenever her name was spoken–” Daedalus made a soft, strangled sound, but Talus continued– “Oh, yes, poor Perdix, unmarried and unremarkable except for that she was sister to the great mind of our time, and, briefly, consort to the king–”
“Stop! Stop — I know you now—”
Talus paused in his progress across the room. He regarded Daedalus with cold pleasure; his uncle was pale and trembling behind his desk, hands fumbling for something to take hold of.
“And, of course,” Talus said delicately, “my father has been gone for some time now. But you’d know that, now, wouldn’t you?”
“What do you want?” demanded the inventor. “When — how did you—” Then his weak eyes fell on the sword at Talus’s side, now near enough to recognize. Daedalus’s loose-skinned jaw fell slack. His trembling ceased in the immediacy of this new shock. He seemed to grasp the meaning at once, this time. “Icarus—”
“I want you dead, Daedalus,” said Talus, drawing his cousin’s sword. He began to move again, faster, rounding the corner of the desk in a stride.
The old man flinched back, caught his foot on the leg of his worktable, and dropped to the floor. There was panic in his wet, darting eyes, and guilt, and Talus needed no more than that to justify himself. Talus bent, seizing Daedalus by the front of his chiton to lift him to his knees.
“It may comfort you to know he died before he had a chance to dishonor himself further,” he told his uncle. “You may wish to make a decision to die honorably.”
Daedalus stared up at Talus, at the blade in his hand, at Icarus’s blood. Something tightened in the inventor’s face. He straightened, still kneeling, and lifted his chin to bare his throat. “The plans I’m working on,” he said. “You’ve always been bright. You’ll be able to finish them for me.”
“Certainly.” Talus drew up the sword to be level with Daedalus’s neck, tensed his arm. “Goodbye, Uncle.”
Daedalus shut his eyes. Talus swung.
As he left the apartment, the roll of parchment under his arm, Talus wiped the commingled blood of father and son from his stolen sword and smiled into the oblivion of revenge fulfilled.