“Theraphose!” The melodious voice rang down the hallway, catching in his ear and making him turn. The tall lanky blond man smiled warmly at his younger sister and embraced her as she reached him.
“Attalla! I’ve missed you. How do you fare?”
His sister pulled away, brushed her dark hair away from her face and gave her brother a worried look. “He’s very upset with you. Have you seen him?”
Theraphose frowned. “Not yet. The throne room was my next stop.”
“He’s furious with you.” She laid a hand on his cheek. “Why do you keep doing this?”
Theraphose shrugged. “It’s just a story. He knows it’s not true, as does everyone else.”
“You made him look a fool.”
“In a story that had no bearing in reality. Sister, calm yourself. He’s probably not as angry as you think.” Theraphose placed his hands on Attalla’s shoulders, brought her close and kissed the top of her head. He pulled back and looked deep into her bright green eyes. “I’ll go see him right now. You’ll see, this will blow over, it always does.”
“HOW DARE YOU!” Martal was not so much yelling as he was bellowing. His voice, generally strong, reverberated against the stone walls, making those in the room cringe in sympathy for Theraphose, who was standing stoically before his older brother. Attalla was standing quietly next to the throne, sending her favorite brother good thoughts.
“Martal, in my own defense, those who listened have heard my stories before. They know I fabricate to entertain. And well, it wasn’t the best tale I’ve woven.”
Martal stood at his throne, tensing as his brother spoke with a light, almost mocking tone. “It would be wise to try and appease me, brother, not anger me further.”
Theraphose frowned, confused. “Martal. This was a joke, nothing more. My jokes have never bothered you before. Why suddenly, do you take offense?”
Martal was in front of him in a second, grabbing him by his shirt, bringing his face within centimeters of his brother’s. “I am King. It does not bode well that my court laughs at me behind my back.”
“You’ve lost your humor since father’s death. Perhaps you should find it again. You were more fun when you knew how to laugh at yourself. And me.”
“You never did this to father.” He gripped Theraphose’s shirt tighter.
“Yes I did.” Now angry, Theraphose knocked his brother’s hands away from his shirt. “He took great pride in telling me he created me to be this families laughter; the court jester; the one to keep things light when everything else seemed bleak. The stories I tell, I tell because it is my nature. Do you expect me to stop?”
Martal tried to stare his younger brother down, but it was difficult. Martal was the shorter of the two and knew his brother was right. He had over looked Theraphose’s stories before, knowing it entertained the family and court, but this time, “ You stepped out of line this time, brother.”
“How so?” He was thoroughly confused. But Martal wasn’t answering, so Theraphose thought back to his last story and let it unwind in his mind. He saw the ball, the crowd gathering around him as he started the tale, the maiden that had caught his eye. And the tale unfolded completely. He snickered as he remembered the story. The maiden had been so impressed; she followed him to his bedchamber, and had been there for the past week. He gave a slow smile as he thought of her again, but the smile faded when he caught his brother’s look.
“Do you remember what your story stated?” He was speaking through clenched teeth.
Theraphose felt the blood leave his face. “Oh, you can’t be serious.” When his brother said nothing Theraphose continued. “I was trying to impress a maiden. All listening saw this.”
Martal stared his brother down, still silent. Theraphose backed up a step, surprised at his brother’s emotions.
“You can’t be serious. I was trying to impress a maiden, but she was more interested in another. I told the tale to turn her head to me and it worked. She’s still in my bed, in fact. This is why you’re angry? Because I may have insulted your manhood?”
“You did insult my manhood.” His anger made his voice thick.
“Other then a little more laughter, has it really affected anything? Have any women rejected you since I wove the tale?” He only asked as he was sure none had, but the look on Martal’s face revealed the truth, and Theraphose finally understood his brother’s anger. They joked of many things and insulted each other on a regular basis, but the one area that was off limits was women. They had made a pact long ago, never to interfere with each other’s conquests. Theraphose fell to his knee, hung his head, and allowed a pleading tone into his voice.
“Accept my apology, brother and King. It was not my intention to keep a woman from your bed.”
Martal fell to his knee as well, getting eye to eye with his brother. There was pure hatred in his set expression. He spoke so only his brother would hear. “You didn’t.”
“Then why-” And Theraphose suddenly understood. Martal had taken a maiden to bed, but because of the innocent story, had been unable to please her. Blood rushed back to his face in a hard blush and he tried to contain his laughter, but failed. He fell backward, gaining some distance between himself and his beloved brother. He didn’t want to laugh, but it was too much. Martal was the one the women always swooned for. To think that a story had made Martal impotent was too good to be true.
Theraphose’s laughter rang in Martal’s ears, and it was the last straw. Snarling, he bent and once more grabbed his brother by his shirt. Still snarling, he brought Theraphose’s face close to his. “That was your last laugh, brother.”
Martal picked Theraphose up off the floor and threw him across the room. Theraphose landed on his back, still laughing. It was too ridiculous a situation. Martal watched as his brother laughed, growing more and more angry as whispering and snickering erupted around the room. The throne room was generally filled with members of the high court: family, friends and potential enemies. Theraphose’s laughter was lowering the courts’ opinion of Martal, making it easier for others to think about taking the throne. Martal could see their thoughts. It was his gift.
Anger blossomed and exploded in his mind. He barely heard Attalla from behind screaming for her brother’s mercy. Power surged through the King; power given by his father and intensified by the throne and crown. Martal pointed his hands at Theraphose and the laughter in the room stilled. Theraphose’s laughter turned to screams as his body reacted to the transformation spell coursing through his vulnerable limbs. New screams joined his as Theraphose’s body bucked on the floor and extra limbs started to grow from his sides. His body became fat and shrank, while the limbs elongated and hardened.
Theraphose, pain clouding his existence, still had the presence of mind to flip over onto his stomach. He felt that his new form would be defenseless on its back. His last thought as the transformation grew too painful to think through, was for Attalla. He sent out his last thought to her, ordering her not to interfere. He didn’t want Attalla suffering for his mistake. He stared at her as his body shook and continued to transform. Pain faded and he was able to look through his new eyes.
The throne room looked the same, but larger. He was seeing it from closer to the ground. He could sense eight legs, but didn’t know how to use them. As he didn’t want to stumble, he stood where he was and carefully lifted one leg and placed it back in the exact place. He did the same with the seven others. When he felt ready, he turned and faced his brother.
What have you done to me? He tried to speak and couldn’t. He had no mouth. But his family could speak telepathically when they needed to and Martal chose to listen.
“I have given you a new body. One of a creature that can only exist in this one form. Because that is what you are, brother, a creature not worthy of further thought. For your troublesome ways, I am banishing you to walk amongst the humans. See how they like your kind. Now get out of my castle.”
Martal turned with a wave of his hand and went to his throne. Theraphose, incapable of speech, screeched in Martal’s mind, begging for mercy. He looked to his sister and knew she was of no help. She had fainted long ago, and was lying by the throne, unconscious. Banished and alone, Theraphose faded from his brother’s castle.