Trismegistus slid his finger along the edge of the crooked sword that had been his companion for eons, brightly shining in the dark like the waning crescent of the moon. Its silver blade was wickedly sharp, his merest touch making a thin bloody line appear on his finger. It suited him. And it suited the task he had ahead.
It was a clever plan, if he said so himself, which he often did – that is, if he could manage to convince himself to do it.
Even now, every time he tried to carry it out, a feeling of guilt stopped him. It puzzled him to feel that way. What have they ever done for me? would be Trismegistus’ response to his tugging conscience.
The faces of his family showed themselves to him in his mind. Gray-eyed Tritogenia, wiser than them all but twice as slow. Phoebus the Golden, the Shooter from Afar – fiery and passionate and brash; Lady Phoebe, the polar opposite of her twin brother, more cold and unbreachable than the dark side of the moon. The Lord Vitner, who was as often drunk as not, and of no use as either. Lady Cyprian, born of the sea, her parentage unknown, beautiful and fickle as love itself. The disfigured Talbot, balder and uglier than a potato, who preferred his emotionless machines to the company of other humans. And Lord Mavors – now there was the one man he really ought to be afraid of. He was Terminus’ eldest son, and the only legitimate one. He was the next in line to the throne, if Terminus ever happened to die…
No one would ever be able to defeat Mavors in battle, it had been decreed, since the time before time was born to after the universe would be no more. But there were other ways to beat him, Trismegistus knew, ways that were not as honourable or fair, but certainly much more cunning. And if anything, the gods knew that Trismegistus was cunning. He intended to keep it that way.
Lord Trismegistus was not a very handsome man. He had a crooked nature and a crooked smile and crooked shoulders from having to carry around literal tons of mail each day, as that had been his job. Even his sword was crooked. His wits were his one saving grace, and they were not about to be taken away from him as well.
He had to keep his hands from trembling as he walked up to the paunchy man on the throne. At one point he may have been imposing. Now he was anything but. His father greeted him with a nod – not unfriendly but not at all friendly either. His clothing was elaborate, and thunderbolts embroidered with yellow thread were sewn on nearly every inch of his garments. But his eyes were lazy and dull, and a goblet of grape wine had been set beside him. Seeing him made Trismegistus instantly angry again, every one of those few happy moments they had ever spent together wiped from his memory. This world needs a wake-up call, Trismegistus thought. All of them.
And Terminus too. But he won’t get it.
He drew his sword.
The adamantine blade sliced with cold precision and equal mercilessness through everything, even the thick, sinewy neck of the King. He swung the sword clean through Terminus’ neck in one smooth, silent motion. It was beautiful, in a gruesome and twisted way. The head of the king dropped to the floor with a heavy thud. I’ve killed the king, he thought with unexpected glee, a whoop rising up within him. I’ve done it now.
Trismegistus grinned his lopsided grin and climbed onto the ebony throne, high on delirium and drunk with power, kicking Terminus’ headless corpse aside. He liked this precarious spot in the clouds. Suddenly he was so tall, so very tall… No one would ever look down on him again.
One day long ago, not long after Trismegistus’ father Lord Terminus had murdered his own father Saturn to gain the throne of the King of the World, he had sat the young Trismegistus on his knee (of course, he had gone by a different name then).
“Do you like what you see?” the King had asked him. Trismegistus looked around him from the vantage of the throne, which was so high up that one could see the entire universe at his feet.
“Yes,” he had said decisively. “Very much so.”
His father had laughed. “Then you will like the new world that I am building even more. They called my father’s reign the Golden Age. They shall call mine the Age of the Gods, for are the gods not infinitely more grand than any precious metal? We are at the dawn of a new age, my son, and it will be even bigger and brighter. We will make this bigger and brighter.”
Suddenly the world seemed very distant to him. He was dully aware of a shout somewhere near him, but that didn’t seem to matter now.
I did it for you, father, thought Trismegistus. I’m making this world bigger and brighter. Just like you said I would.
Trismegistus was the runt of the family, the one they always looked down upon. But it won’t always be that way.