4. Deep Secrets
King Gorion led Noam into his study and shut all the doors behind them. “There are neither servants nor women in this room. Let’s speak openly with one another, for we are born of the same womb.” He sat down in his usual chair next to the desk and motioned for Noam to sit across from him. “Please have a seat.”
“Your majesty, I’m afraid standing suits me better.” Noam enjoyed the feeling of looking down at his brother while standing. “I shall commence by informing you that the Hermonion armies are passing through our kingdom at this very moment, plundering each household. They will assemble the people outside of our castle at the beginning of the ninth hour for the celebration of your birthday. Your majesty will make a speech, and afterwards, I, the next in line to the throne, shall declare to our people the future of our kingdom.”
“What will you declare to our people regarding their future?” King Gorion watched Noam’s face closely.
“That would very much depend on your speech.”
“I will make the same speech I’ve made every year.”
“I’m afraid I would advise against that. You must use a little imagination. The people just had their homes plundered by a foreign army, and were assembled by their king.” Noam tapped his chin with his gnarly fingers. “Hmm, I wonder what they would be dying to know.”
“I trust you will explain that in your speech.” King Gorion held back his anger.
“Are you telling me what to do again?!” Noam growled. “I’ve obeyed you like a dog for my whole life! But from now on, you must obey ME like a dog!”
“I don’t understand. Why do you despise me so? How have I wronged you?”
“Of course you don’t understand! You’ve never been hollered at! You’ve never been accused of doing wrong! You’ve never been rebuked by anyone!” Noam’s voice grew louder and louder until he lost control of himself. “But today! On MY birthday, I shall be proclaimed king! And you WILL understand!” He clenched his fists and stomped the ground as if squashing an insect. “You will understand what it’s like to be a rug under the king’s feet!” His eyes burned with the same hatred that had consumed his youth. He was a withering old man at the age of forty-seven, frail, hunched, gnarled, and grey.
“Noam, please come to your senses. It is not too late to turn back from your errors.” King Gorion offered his right hand.
“No, your majesty!” Noam slapped King Gorion’s hand out of his sight with force. “I’m afraid it’s too late! The wounds you have inflicted on me have festered and spread throughout my whole body. I must remove you from my presence to ease the pain!”
“You may do to me as you wish, but do not harm the queen and Ayden.”
“Have you any other demands, my dear brother? I shall do everything in my power to fulfill your last wishes,” Noam taunted.
“There are two more things I would like to ask for.” King Gorion’s anger dissolved into sympathy when he saw the burning flames that tormented his brother’s restless soul. “Please treat the people of Orr with kindness and generosity as our parents had always done. And take good care of yourself under the rule of the Hermonions, you know very well the end of all their captives.”
“You need not be concerned about me! I know what you are truly thinking under that cover of magnanimity!” Noam broke out into a rampage. “You are about to lose control over the only puppet you’ve ever had and you cannot cope with it! You always made me look like an idiot in front of our parents! Everything was all about their handsome, intelligent, and wonderful Gorion! No one could care less about his foolish and naughty little brother! Well, look who’s rotting in their graves now!”
“Noam, it’s a small matter for you to insult me, but I forbid you to insult our late parents!” King Gorion rose from his seat with indignation. His robust figure towered over Noam’s frail frame. “They did everything for us and our people. We owe them our very lives!”
“Oh, I was merely lamenting their foolishness.” Noam smirked with contempt.
“Don’t you dare call them foolish!” King Gorion’s heart burned with anger, and his right hand formed a fist.
“Your majesty, I’ve always admired your patience with me.” Noam stretched his neck upwards to meet King Gorion’s gaze and placed his gnarly hand over his strong fist. “Please sit down and allow me to tell you the whole story.”
“Please forgive my manners.” King Gorion complied. But when he looked up at his brother, he noticed how horrifying his face had become. Noam’s sunken forehead was marked with deep wrinkles. His nose was crooked and knotted at the bridge. His beady eyes were covered with heavy droopy eyelids and sat above a set of dark purple circles. His lips were thin like paper and deep purple in colour. Thin grey stubble was scattered on his chin as an attempt of growing a beard.
“First, they made me miserable and angry as a child by giving you all the love and attention, and spared none for me. Not only that, they forced me to be kind and generous to all people, even though no one had treated me so!” Noam glared at King Gorion. “And one day, I finally understood their teachings about generosity, that NO ONE deserved to be miserable and angry. No, not even me! Then I decided to take matters into my own hands, so I could also have a chance of happiness.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I removed everyone who stood between me and my happiness!” Noam jeered. “Soon, you’ll also join them in the land of misery! Hahahahahahaha!”
“Noam, you need to stop this nonsense! Our late father and mother died from an accident.” A chill ran up King Gorion’s spine. “Their time had come and God took them away.”
“It was NOT an accident! You’re just as foolish as everyone else!” Noam screamed in King Gorion’s face. “I ordered the deadly poison to be mixed in with their favourite dish. I condemned the chef to be executed for his negligence. I ALSO removed Mr. Jewels, the pathetic good-hearted doctor, because he raised questions.”
“No, Noam, you didn’t.” King Gorion’s heart sunk. “You’re lying to me. Everything you’re telling me is a lie! Tell me you’re lying! Tell me you’re lying!” He grabbed Noam by his frail arms and shook him violently.
“My dear brother, I love to see you like this, naïve and helpless.” Noam answered with pouty lips in a coaxing tone. He caressed his brother’s cheeks. “Hmm, what else should I tell you before you go to the grave? Ah, do you remember our younger brother’s accident in the shed? I was the one who commanded Frank to lock it up and set it on fire. Oh, that poor scapegoat! And his poor, lovely fiancé, who refused to be my woman! Well, they all got what they deserved for disobeying the future king! Hahahahahahaha!”
“Noam, you have pierced the hearts of all those who loved you.” King Gorion was struck by a searing pain and grasped his chest. His head started to spin with disbelief. “Why have you not plotted against me?”
“How could I have forgotten you, the worst troublemaker in my life! You were like a cat with nine lives! Do you not remember the countless assassins who broke into our castle? I was the one who commissioned them, but they were all bloody idiots! I hid all the beautiful and goodly women of our kingdom when our parents sought a wife for you.” Noam’s face turned red and his voice grew loud and passionate. “But you brought back the most beautiful woman on this earth after the most tragic fall! That fall was supposed to kill you, not prosper you with a beautiful queen and sons! God’s hand had been with you for a long time, but today you will fall from both his favour and the throne! And I shall be the revered king of Orr in your place! Hahahahahahaha!”
“Even if I were to kill you seventy times over, it would not be enough to avenge all the innocent blood you have shed!” King Gorion held back his fist from striking Noam. “You’re a disgrace to our family! God will repay you for all that you have done!”
“Now, the true King Gorion speaks!” Noam snickered. “I’m afraid it’s too late. If you were to kill me now, your entire household and your kingdom would perish with the sword of the Hermonions. But if you do as I say, then I will spare their lives in exchange.”
“You may take my life in exchange for theirs, but you must swear to keep your word.” King Gorion bowed his head in submission.
“I am generally a man of my words, except for exceptional circumstances in which things don’t go according to my plan. Nonetheless, I shall keep my word today since it’s my birthday, and there’s no harm in being generous once a year.” Noam cleared his throat and straightened his hunched back as much as he could. “Now listen carefully for what you must do. At the assembly, I will first depose you for high treason and murder. Then have you removed from my kingdom permanently as an exile, because my kind heart cannot bear to see my own brother hanged…”
The dry and raspy voice of Noam faded into a murmur as King Gorion rehearsed the plan of escape in his mind.
 The ninth hour is between 2-3 PM.