“Hallion!” The call echoes through the halls of the palace. “Lord Hallion!”
It’s a tall woman in a smart tunic named Yora hurrying through the halls. She has gold hair and green eyes, and her footsteps clop clop against the marble floor.
Hallion is sitting at his desk, a great thing of oak and gold. It is at this desk that he had composed his greatest stories, The Epic of Theomidon, the Inglorious Murder of Geneviere, and her Three Ladies, all of the stories that had secured Elora’s oratorial dominance for the past generation.
Hallion, the indomitable orator himself, the champion of the five acts, victor of the denouement, is utterly broken. His eyes are heavy and bagged with blue.
“Lord Hallion.” Yora salutes. “The Finix orator has breached the walls with his story. The people are trying not to listen, but the words – such words – they can’t last much longer.”
Hallion stands up and looks out of the window over the city his words had made.
“Lord Hallion!” Yora repeats, but the man doesn’t turn and look at her or move or say anything. “We have no time! He is painting such scenery that the people will swear they saw it themselves. We must fight!”
Hallion turns for a moment, but he can’t meet her eyes.
“And what story should I tell?” Hallion says.
Yora draws up short, her eyes wide and her heartbreaking. “No. Please, no.”
“For fifty years, I have created stories to soar this simple land to greatness. One by one, the orators or the world fell to my onslaught of metaphor and meter. And now I sit in a palace of wandering words, and I look down at the world I have created, and I wonder what any of it mattered.”
“It mattered to us! To me! To all of the people down there counting on you. Finix’s orator is winning. His similes are soaring, and something has to stop them!”
“Another story,” Hallion says. “Always another story.”
“We will have to use one we already have,” Yora says. “The ballade of Trian and Garol.”
“Won’t work.” Hallion looks at his hands. “Once a story has been told, its power is sapped. Only the new can surprise anyone into caring. Only a new idea, a better idea. But I have no new ideas. Yora, I’m finished. I’m spent. I’m spread.”
“Then our world is lost,” Yora says. “I will have to tell them. I will go and tell them how Hallion – the scribe of the suffering spectacle – fell, how his hubris humbled him, how he fell not to Finix, but to self-pity!”
“Yora…” Hallion looks up, a spark of something splashing across his face.
“Hallion, the man I grew up whispering of. Such a figure, Such a towering triumph of words. I made of you a statue in my mind – solid stone that could never bow to something so simple as sunlight! I built you places and cathedrals and mountains to rival the seven gods! I loved you as one can only love one’s self because you WERE me. You made me know the world around me. Your words spun slivers of stone into shining silver. You made me know the pleasure-pain of sacrifice and growth and hope and love. Love most of all. You made me love myself, love my country. You made me love you!”
“Yora…” Hallion looks out the window. The wind stirs his hair. “Yora… keep going.”
Yora finds his meaning and freezes, terrified. “No. I mean- I’m not ready. I don’t know the right, I just… that wasn’t a story it was just … I was just talking .. I was just …”
“Yora,” Hallion says. “This belongs to you.” He holds up a quill, a simple white wisp of nothing. A weapon. The only weapon.
Yora stares at it for a long moment.
And then she seizes it and sits down to write.
© 2021, Aaron Zimmerman. All rights reserved.