Another Lazy Day
A Story by Kevin Gallagher
The sun burned bright, not a cloud in the sky blocking the warm rays. A slight breeze offered minor relief from the heat as Helios strolled through the woods that surrounded the thatched cottage the lad called home. The teen stopped to stare into the sky, narrowing his blue eyes as the sun shone down on his clean-shaven face. Wiping the sweat from his brow, Helios continued down the path, kicking up dirt with his boots as he walked.
It was rare Helios took advantage of the weekly day off his mentor offered; he rather enjoyed working off his frustration during his training sessions. It had been over a decade since his father, the king of Saffraan, Jason Dactyls, sent him to train. Since then, only his mother, Queen Selene, had visited on a regular basis. The only interaction he received from his father had been that of his birthday gift. The most recent, for his eighteenth year, was the new training attire he wore: brown leather pants with a matching vest and bracers, along with a white tunic to wear underneath.
Helios approached a small cliff that offered an open view of the forest. He smiled as he approached the ledge, taking a deep breath, soaking in the fresh air and the complete quiet. He unsheathed his sword as he sat upon the cliff’s ledge, allowing his legs to dangle, and stared out at the vast scenery before him. The green of the tree tops stretched on as far as the eye could see, and beautiful fields of flora lay to the west. Arthican bluebirds, with azure feathers on their body—save for their torsos, where reddish-brown feathers could be seen—flew about.
As he sat, taking in all the beauty Saffraan offered, the heat brought on a thirst. Helios detached the cup from his waterskin and poured himself water. Before he could quench his thirst, he caught his reflection staring back at him. The smile had left his face as he thought of his brother.
I understand why father never visits, Helios thought to himself as looked down to his sword, but why not you, brother?
Almost identical, the only difference between him and his twin brother, Kevin, was their hair color—Kevin had long blond strands, while Helios’ was uncharacteristically white. Kevin was the first born by only a few minutes, but it was enough to make him the heir apparent to the throne. The other was left to be sent away for training to help protect the kingdom one day.
Helios winced and clicked his tongue.
Without realizing it, he had cut the palm of his hand with his blade. The wound wasn’t deep, but the blood still dripped. Helios placed his sword to his side and ripped a portion of his new shirt’s sleeve, smiling as he imagined his father’s disapproval. As he wrapped his hand to cover the wound, he looked to his left, thinking he had heard something.
When he didn’t hear anything further, he focused on his wound once more. The blood stained his makeshift bandage as he finished tying it off. He looked at the view before him once more, appreciating the beauty for which he did not take for granted—it was one of the few benefits to him living away from Argos, the country’s capital. A frown took over his face as he thought about his brother again.
“I’ve told you for years they don’t love you,” a strange voice said.
Helios grabbed his sword and jumped up, ready to defend himself. There was no one around as he circled the area.
“Where are you?” Helios asked loudly.
“At what point do you stop asking?” The voice sounded like it came from every direction.
“Show yourself, and I, Prince Helios Dactyls, will spare you.”
“When will you accept me as the only one who cares for you?”
“Cares for me? What are you talking about? I don’t know who or what you are!”
“You don’t? Think back. I’ve been with you since you were left at that old elf’s door.”
Helios took a moment and thought about what the mysterious voice said. It was only vaguely familiar, as he’d been hearing the whispers for the last few weeks. As time passed, the voice grew louder and clearer. The more he thought, the more he felt like something was very wrong.
Helios felt a stabbing pain and dropped his sword to clutch his head. Dropping to his knees, the lad saw a flood of memories from his past. Some he remembered, like the time he and his brother found their father’s sacred sword, while others were unfamiliar. Those were the most painful.
The pain dulled slightly when a single memory came into focus. Helios saw himself as a young boy being dropped off to Icarus’ house. His mother consoled the boy, visibly upset about his situation. His father put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and gave a light squeeze. Helios’ eyes teared up, and he touched his own shoulder, the same as his father.
When they walked away, Kevin approached and offered his hand. The boy took it, and as they shook, Kevin brought him close for a hug. When they separated, both boys had tears running down their faces. As the family walked away, the pain intensified in Helios’ head, and the memory morphed into an unfamiliar scene.
The same young boy sat in the very spot Helios writhed in pain. Not remembering the moment, he focused through the pain, staring at his younger self. The boy’s legs dangled over the cliff’s edge as he sobbed. Even though he wasn’t in that moment, Helios could feel the brisk evening air. The boy’s sadness was his sadness; the pain had left his head and gone straight to his heart.
“What kind of father just abandons his son?” the strange voice returned.
Before Helios could respond, he saw the boy react. The voice was part of the memory. Wiping tears away from his face, the boy looked to either side, as did Helios.
“Icarus? Is that you?” the boy asked.
There was only silence. Helios could feel how scared his younger self was and wanted to reach out and comfort the boy. There was a howl in the distance that caused the child to run. As he passed through Helios, the older lad returned to the cliff, on his knees with his sword by his side.
“I’ve been with you since the beginning,” the voice called out to Helios.
“A father doesn’t abandon his child. It’s time you claim what is rightfully yours.”
“A family reunion is in order.”
“There’s one last loose end to tie up.”
Helios stared out into the wilderness, towards the east—where Icarus’ home stood.