Challenge #02072-E248: In the Stars
It's amazing how flaming balls of gas, billions of lightyears from Earth, can have such an impact on human existence. -- Anon Guest
It was mathematics. Geometry. Therefore it had to be as true as the four humors. Cassius watched as the Greek made notes and drew lines between symbols. It was, ultimately, a star-shaped drawing inside a circle, and some other intersecting lines.
"What are the omens?"
"The empire's displeasure continues. You will not rise yet," said Sophus the Prognosticator. "The emperor has fallen, and the new one is standing in his shadow. If his sun shines, then you may have a chance. If he continues in his current path, he will fall soon after. It is a time of strife."
"It was a time of strife when I was exiled," grumbled Cassius. "The rest of it you could learn from the local fishermen."
"True," said Sophus. "But it would be weeks too late. If your fortune changes, you would have weeks to prepare."
Cassius grumbled. He hated having to live like a common man in a simple villa with only a handful of servants. "I've been learning Greek," he said. "And reading a work by one of your countrymen. On the Nature of Heavenly Bodies. It's very interesting."
Sophus muttered to himself, translating the Latin back to Greek. "That would be the one by Eugene the Mad?"
"I needed a laugh," said Cassius. "He says that all the stars - except the wandering ones - are distant suns. So far away that they appear to be pinpoints of light."
Sophus scoffed. "Ridiculous. Everyone knows that the stars are nothing more than holes in the firmament of the sky, through which the light of the Gods shines through." More lines appeared in the diagram from Sophus' hand. "Huh... Generosity and largesse will assist you. Be kind to those below and they will lift you above."
"Even more obtuse than usual, Sophus," sighed Cassius. "Who am I meant to be generous to? The servants? The villagers that stink like curds? The fishermen and their wives who smell like rotten seaweed? Who is worth that generosity? What could I even give them, languishing so far from the empire?"
He had four rooms that might as well be empty, for all the time he spent in them. He had golden urns that sat empty and collected dust. He had sheer linen togas, freshly laundered daily. He had regular meals. He had gardens and estates. He had servants to help him through his long and lonely days. And he had Sophus, literally his last friend in the world. "The stars tell me only that. There is no more."
Cassius sulked all the way into his midday nap, fanned by three servants through the midday heat.
The empire was falling, and Cassius had but one thing to do when it did: share his wealth. The problem was that it was difficult for him to see that he still had wealth. All he saw was the luxuries he was now forbidden. And therefore had no interest in sympathy for those who had less.
Sophus tried to warn him, for all the days they shared, but neither of them saw the knife in Cassius' back until it was too late.
And the stars remained. Unseeing. Uncaring, Unwavering.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / koi88]
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