tlenthea was a land very much like our world. Unlike our world however, it was a land of mythical beasts and fantastical beings; of daemons and gods; of queens and kings of old. And it is here, in the city of Thessalonikk, our story begins.
Francis Bonnefoy was a beautiful man, and a very talented one at that. With velvety locks as golden as the sun, and blue eyes rimmed with long lashes, he enthralls the audience either with his melodious singing or with his heart-moving performances in the Arena; a celebrity with throngs of swooning admirers and many a statue erected in tribute to his beauty. He was Venus as a man.
“Ah, listen to them, Herakles. The name of Francis Bonnefoy rolls easily from their lips, sweet like honey and rich like wine.”
He sighed proudly, flicking those golden locks with manicured fingers. “They absolutely adore me.”
His companion turned to regard Francis, his expression contemplative, a faraway look in his teal-coloured eyes. Cats of every sort clustered around him, nuzzling and purring like tiny engines.
“I suppose they do.” Herakles said. A calico had climbed onto his lap, and was demanding to be immediately bestowed with some attention. He scratched her ears absent-mindedly. “I don’t think they have much choice in the matter though. You are a god. Beauty and Vanity are but your instruments used to tease human hearts.”
“Ohohoho, you flatter me so, mon ami. But you are quite right, and there is no greater creature or being in Atlenthea that they could ever love as much.”
Perhaps Irony had been eavesdropping and saw it fit to be playing pranks, even upon gods. Perhaps it was just the way of the Cosmos; that there were always stronger warriors, prettier women and bigger fish. Either way, Francis would come to regret those very words.
Deep in the woods, away from Thessalonikk, was a house with a small round door. It belonged to a young man who worked as a healer, selling medicinal herbs and tending to the villagers seeking help for their ailments. The man was kind to his patients, always treating them like a mother nursing the wounds of her sick cubs. Because of his quiet and gentle nature, the people grew to love and care for him.
Sometimes the children would even bring their injured pets to him, much to their parents’ embarrassment, but the man never turned them away. Instead he would smile bemusedly, and did his best to treat the injured creatures in the same fashion as he did with his patients. And like their parents, the children loved him just as much, if not more.
So it was that word of his kindness spread far, and people from other neighbouring villagers and cities began seeking him out as well. Again, his charity and humility touched them so that they spoke of his name with such reverence and began to pay homage to him, as if he were a god. As it was, news of his deeds travelled far and wide, and soon even the people of Thessalonikk were speaking of him, much to the annoyance of Francis.
“Who is this... this Kiku they speak of?” he raged to Herakles. The two were seated in a lush bar, sipping honeyed wine from their glasses.
“That’s all I ever hear everywhere I go now, and they speak of him as though he were the latest trend in fashion, when he obviously isn’t. C'est rien que de la merde!”
Herakles only shrugged. “I dunno, he sounds quite nice to me.”
Francis huffed, gnawing into his silk kerchief in a dramatic show of anger. “He probably has the face of a guinea pig and the brain of a mouldy cheese sandwich!"
Herakles pondered for a bit, before lifting up an old, scruffy-looking tabby, who was meandering about under the table. “Menelaus looks a bit piggish too. I still like him though."
Affronted, Menelaus swiped a paw lightly across Herakles’ cheek, before squirming out of his grasp and leaping away.
“Je m'en fous! The point of the matter is, he’s been stealing my limelight and that is unforgiveable.” Still seething, Francis stared angrily at the other, who was already half asleep, when he came upon an idea.
“Herakles, mon puce, I think you are the solution to all my unfortunate woes.”
“You are the god of Love, no?”
Herakles would usually never agree to this sort of thing, as it wasn’t in his nature to be vindictive – except towards one other person, but that’s a different matter altogether. He’d “lost” the drinking game with Francis, however. In actual fact, he’d fallen asleep in the midst of the game out of sheer boredom. Francis somehow took that to mean Herakles was too sloshed to continue and therefore proclaimed himself as victor. As part of the deal, Herakles had to seek this man out and make him fall in love with the most hideous of beings, thus putting him to utmost shame. So here he was, sitting on the back of his calico daemon-cat, skimming across the sky in their search for Kiku in the woods. It wasn’t long before Herakles spied the man gathering herbs along the riverbank.
He watched the man for a bit, and saw how Kiku came across a kitten caught in a rabbit snare, gently releasing it and making sure it was unhurt. Herakles’ lips quirked at that. As the sun rose higher, Kiku turned back and made his way home. Once he’d laid out the gathered herbs to dry just beside his small house, he sat in the shade of a tree for a brief rest, only to doze off.
The daemon-cat descended from the sky and Herakles quietly approached the sleeping man. He hesitated, studying the smaller figure for a moment. Kiku had raven hair, a dark contrast against his skin, which was pale like porcelain. His lips though were pink, much like the soft blush on his cheeks, and as Herakles bent over to prick his side with his arrow, he couldn’t help but think how attractive this man looked, even in sleep.
At Herakles’ touch, Kiku’s body twitched slightly in sleep, and to his surprise, a pair of vulpine ears appeared on top of Kiku’s head, followed by a long, bushy tail.
“A kitsuné, huh? How sly!” Herakles chucked softly. A wrong move though, because the laughter stirred Kiku awake and the smaller man looked up to see Herakles standing over him. Soft brown eyes met sea-green ones and Herakles was lost in the moment, until he felt the sharp arrow piercing his hand and he jumped, startled. Realizing he had been discovered, he leapt on to his daemon-cat and fled quickly to the heavens above, leaving Kiku to wonder if everything was but a dream.