Beathowe sat by the fire with Firanemon and listened to the crackling embers burst in occasional pops, loud enough to allow hunters in the distance know their whereabouts. This concerned him. Nevertheless, his eyes remained fixed upon the glowing embers, pulsating in bright orange verging upon sun-yellow in the surrounding, flat, pitch darkness which covered them with the force of dread. Next to them, a bubbling brook carried hobbled hiccups downstream. Across this shallow, stone-bottomed, flowing oasis, grass fields rolled in undulations toward an upward slope where the horizon met the dark sky upon which the stars were pitched like punctured holes in a thin sheet of black metal, shielding out what seemed like a penetrating light, held back by the onyx slate of the night.
Firanemon broke the long, tiring silence. "I've been thinking of your name," he said. Beathowe stared on in silence, still contemplating the pulsating embers fueling the fire from the surface of the ground. He stirred a little, to let Firanemon know he was listening. His temptation to respond out of courtesy was stayed by his desire to keep himself from scrutiny. "A man's name is his identity," his father told him as a lad. This proverb was one of the few things he recalled about his father, and it rang true to his innermost being. Beathowe therefore said nothing in response to Firanemon, though he was of a kindness of heart to let him know he would listen to him and did not desire to cast aspersions at his inquiry, thus hurting the man's own heart.
"Your name carries a certain dignity and heroic nature to it," said Firanemon. Beathowe offered an approving grunt that had a syncretism along with it that was congruent with a hum. He approved of this report from his new, fiery-haired companion.
"However--dare I say? It seems to me that there is a letter needed to add a regal dignity to it, and also there needs to be a letter or two that should be dropped off." This had Beathowe's attention. Though his head remained cast down into the gazing position of the watching of the fire, he shifted his eyes up to his pundit dialogist. Thus Firanemon knew he had Beathowe's attention, though Beathowe's gaze upon him now appeared on the verge of annoyance, but Firanemon reasoned within himself that this was due to the fact that Beathowe's head was still cast downward, and any man in such a position while looking upward will have the appearance of such a foul mood, though he intends it not. Such is the manner of things in their mere, physical position. It reminded him of the "bad men" of his youth in his city, Firkenfels, who would conceal their identities by carrying on down the main streets with downward head and hood, often darting off in a hurried pace between the apprentice shops in the narrow alleys, only to reappear at dusk with only a slight bit of ease in the concealment of their identities. Thus Beathowe's appearance was to Firanemon, though the latter knew the former meant no ill will. This he knew simply by the simple laws of bodily position, knowing that judgment of the motives meant more than meets the eye. At least, he hoped he was correct in this notion. He continued, "It seems to me that to create the king which you desire to be--"
"Who told you I wanted to be a king?" Beathowe sat up as straight as the arrows in his quiver.
"Well, don't you?"
"I'm the son of a farmer, and I am a hunter. You are speaking nonsense. I only want what I want."
"And what do you want, hmm?" Firanemon smiled at him with a knowing look on his face, his thin lips curved like a crescent moon. Beathowe would prefer to wipe the look off his face! He stiffened even more and felt his had jerk with a motion toward his weapon. Perhaps only he noticed this slight, rigid movement. But then, he calmed himself, for he knew that his temper at the mere suggested insult of his character had gotten the best of him in the past, and for this reason he was now on the run. His back slacked in a bent position. A look of sadness and despair flooded his face, but only for the amount of time it takes for a crackle and pop of the embers in the fire to explode and then disappear. Firanemon thought he saw it, and in fact he did, but it was too quick for it to register in his mind, so he was left wondering if he actually saw the look, or merely thought he saw it.
"Get on with your thesis about my name," Beathowe said.
"Thesis! My, you are a king--a king of words. Good! Then I shall offer you my proposal, and by this advice you will achieve your desires, dreams, and destiny. All of this will come if you take up my counsel and change a mere few letters of your name."
"You speak madness," Beathowe retorted. "No one's destiny is changed by so foolish a notion as a the change of a few, mere letters."
"Oh? Haven't you ever heard the tale of Mardecht? His is a tale of woe known in my city. Have you heard of this man?"
"I have heard the tale of Mardecht, only we know his tale as Murdekt; and we know this tale is just that: a tale.
"You know the tale from your own people," replied Firanemon. "In our lands, a man's name can change his destiny."
"In my land, a man's name is who he is."
"But what if we changed your name from 'Beathowe' to 'Bearthoe'?
"Why in the cosmic expanse of all things would I desire this?" snorted Beathowe.
"Because the 'r' provides the added regal notion of which you seek. Think of the great kings of old: Kearchdoch, Dirghenloe, Mabrorohim, and Palenorcht. Further, you know all these men are just a smidgen of great kings in our own overlands. And," he added, this time with a nodding head shifted toward Beathowe for added emphasis, "they were all as you are: a man in search of his own."
"Coincidence. There have been many great kings whose names bare no resemblance at all, and, I might add, the fact that a few of these men had the letter 'r' in their names is special pleading on your part. You can concoct any story you wish and find the right evidence to support it. I reject your analysis as a fiat, and therefore foolish. Though I don't reject your kinship. Please understand."
"I take no offense," Firanemon answered. Though, he heaved a heavy sigh and sat back in reflection. He knew within himself that Beathowe was and would be a great king. Or was he resting his notion on fanciful ideas? No, it was too coincidental: meeting this man, from this particular background--the same background as the other great kings of old, with his special name, a name chock full of such deep meaning. No, it was not by chance that he met this man of the fields and forest. On the other hand, Beathowe seemed content to live as a vagabond, seeking only a new land, free from the past which hunted him, but only in his homeland. But weren't the great kings of old also fleeing from such things? Kearchdoch ran from his own father on false charges of murder, only to find his freedom after much suffering; Dighenloe has a similar story. He himself did in fact kill a man in cold blood, at least that was the accusation, but then it was discovered that he too acted justly. Maborohim, though his father sent him away under good graces of seeking a way for himself with many gifts, had also to fight the enemy in order to plead for his innocence for the death of Kelinah, the fair and pure maiden of his neighboring town, Balphremin. Surely, such tales bore resemblance to Beathowe's own circumstances.
Beathowe spoke. "Changing my name to 'Bearthoe' sounds terrible, and I'll tell you why. Placing the 'r' in my name makes it sound too much like the stuff upon which we walk and which we came, and in which worms find their home. I am of the earth, but I care not for the picture drawn from the grimy soil at which farmers toil. Further, the 'e' on the end of 'Bearthoe' contains no phonetic significance. It doesn't matter if the 'e' is there or not. We may just as well spell it as 'Beartho.' But that, too, looks like it lacks something, so we put the 'e' back on it. But the 'e' has nothing but aesthetic value, making it look 'pretty.' I have no desire make my name look pretty. This is for woman, not for man. It is fitting that a woman's name should be fair, both to the sound and to the eye; but a man's name should do the same, only fitting for what is appropriate for a man. My name remains the same."
"Spoken like a true king," Firanemon said. "Only you have the marks of more than a king. You have the marks of a learned man as well. A scholar, you are! Therefore, I say to you that you are a king. Ha!"
"Well, I only know what my father taught me. But if I am correct, then I am indeed not a king, for you said that in order for me to be a king, my name would have to be changed according to your own notions."
"You have outwitted me, Beathowe. Still, I have a sense about you, and my grandfather passed along the prophetic gift to me, and I know that I am right. You are a king, and will be a king. But my gift has waned much like the late moon. It is time I regained the strength of it, and yet, I am at a loss how this may happen, for my grandfather died some years ago, and my own father has no interest in the prophecies of old."
"And neither do I. Still, if it suits you, where did your grandfather live? We must be away from this land, as the hunters will surely catch me before dawn."
"He lives half a moon's journey from here by the mountain pass. It is a long road. But if you will be my travel companion, then I am of the courage to embark upon this journey to perhaps discover the solution to my insufficiency."
"We will do it. Let me rest now, for my eyes are heavy, and my body is weak. We will fill our flasks with water from this stream in the morning and be on our way."
Firanemon rose to his feet. This startled Beathowe, but he saw that his travel mate rose only offer his pledge of loyalty. He bowed to Beathowe, touch the rim of his hat with a swipe and salute, and sat, long-legged against the smooth, flat rock at his back to rest. Beathowe stared at the glowing, pulsating embers until his eyes closed. The two figures sat facing each other in the same position, like obtuse angles, jutting out from the fading fire in the middle, now reduced to a deep, red glow, reflecting watching eyes at the edge of the circle, hidden in the trees.