Once upon a “fate” there lived a very wealthy, insolent and selfish man named Andros (Man) who, like most suffering from the dangerous affliction of material wealth, was always disgruntled and never at peace. He was rich in all things: large fields to grow fruit and vegetables; animals like cows, sheep, donkeys and goats to fill them; properties with single and multi-storey houses; and a great many horse carriages. But despite these prodigious assets, he was void of happiness.
Now there came a time when Andros was required to travel to the neighbouring town to resolve issues surrounding the inheritance of his dead brother’s properties. Andros was of a self-serving and stingy disposition, and thus avoided seeking out the hospitality of other wealthy or influential individuals for fear of attracting to himself the contingency of reciprocating favours of any sort. Despite the fact that he abhorred it, he much preferred the refuge of the filthy and plague-ridden neighbourhood slum where one was bound to commune with the lower mortals who embraced and loved all without expecting anything in return. Their sentiments suited Andros just fine.
So instead of seeking hospitality in the rich quarters, Andros began his door-knocking enterprise in the dilapidated downtown. He was dutifully received on his third attempt by a vibrant couple who made room for their overnight guest by laying a mattress in the corner of their two room home. Before long, he became aware of a third presence in the home, a newborn baby. Had Andros known this from the beginning he would have turned down the offer. He wasn’t particularly enthused by the idea of sleeping in the same space as an infant prone to high-pitched outbursts through the night.
Andros didn’t even like kids, save for his own. After the young couple went to bed in the adjoining room, he found himself scowling repeatedly at the infant in the crib every time it laughed, burped or whimpered. The night brimmed with all sorts of bothersome noises: Andros could hear the hoot of an owl as it soared above the house in search of prey and the neighing of horses as they drawn carriages urgently along the dirt road which passed directly in front of the cottage. It appears Hypnos, the god of sleep, had forgotten to sprinkle his nocturnal dust over Andros’s eyes tonight.
Huddling in his corner of the room, Andros pondered on how best he could fool his brother’s wife into sighing over her inherited possessions to him. He became so entangled in these fantasies that he failed to see three snow-coloured entities materialise from the slivers of moonlight that seeped into the room from the window and illuminated the baby’s crib. The three entities morphed from vaguely discernible human figures into seductive femme fatales, to skin-wrinkled crones, to little girls with gold-coloured hair. Then they were femme fatales again.
The sight mortified Andros. He cupped a hand over his mouth to muffle his own scream.
“Look at this little cherub,” one of them whispered, stroking the infant’s head. “Isn’t he gorgeous?”
“He is Clotho,” another agreed.
“Cute and adorable,” said the third.
”Too cute and adorable to be poor, that’s for sure,” said the one who went by the name Clotho. “Lachesis and Atropos, are you two thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Sure,” the other two nodded.
“Let’s take the biological parents out of the picture and weave this little bundle of joy into the graceless life of that miserable old fool lying in the corner over there,” said Clotho.
“Yes,” the others agreed. “This little cutie will inherit the miser’s wealth.”
The three entities exchanged looks and giggled. Clotho withdrew a magic wand, waved it around and muttered some words over the baby’s crib. Then they all dematerialised into slivers of moonlight and disappeared.
Andros, who’d been conscious, had heard every word that had been whispered in the preternatural dark. He was immediately gripped by a fear that took on a more tangible form and formed a stranglehold around his neck. He began to hyperventilate and it wasn’t long before his whole body became saturated by a veil of perspiration.
What possessed them to think that the son of an old nobodaddy, a peasant, had any rights to the riches and glories that another had acquired through hard work and perseverance. No, he thought. There would be none of that. He would either beat the “fates” at their own game or take“fate” into his own hands.
When dawn came, he scurried to his feet and stumbled into the adjoining room, having rehearsed the dramatic script in the recesses of his own mind.
“Good morning!” the young peasant said. “Did you sleep well?”
“Couldn’t have slept better,” Andros lied. “I have a proposition for you.”
“As I lay on the confortable mattress you two cherished people offered me last night,” he said, “I had time to mull things over, to think about why I’d been unhappy all these years! The realisation struck me like a tonne of bricks. I knew what had been missing from my life.”
“What had been missing from your life?” the peasant asked.
“A child,” Andros said. “You see, my wife and I have no children of our own. Watching your son as he slept peacefully last night, I came to realise that what was missing from my life was the presence of a child. I knew it, felt it. For what greater joy could exist in this world to rival the reward and honour that comes with being a good parent. I always sought happiness and splendour in gold instead of seeking in the laughter of an infant. If you give me your son, I will raise him as my own. I would dearly love to be a father. Your son will be raised amongst wealth and nobility; he will be showered in gifts. He will be given opportunities that other children born to humble parents like you can only dream about.”
The peasant laughed. “I couldn’t just hand you my son.”
“Sure you could,” Andros said. “You and your wife are still young and will have many children. My wife and I on the other hand are way past our primes. And besides, the “fates” revealed it in my dream last night. They led me to you so that I could give your son a chance at life; a chance at happiness.”
“But riches don’t necessarily make one happy,” the peasant argued.
“It depends,” Andros said. “It certainly creates the conditions necessary for happiness to grow. If you don’t have money your chances of being happy are slim to none.”
The peasant looked at his wife. “What do you think?”
She shrugged. “The stranger speaks the truth husband. He can give our child things that we can’t.”
“If it is the decree of the mighty Fates as you say then I willingly accept their will on condition that you allow us to see him as often, and as quickly as we like.”
“Have no fear,” Andros said. “You can see him whenever you choose.”
“Then he is yours.”
But Andros never had any intention of adopting and raising the child. His ploy was merely a theatrical ruse to separate the baby from its parents. As soon as he reached the outskirts of the city, he ordered his obedient servant to hurl the baby onto a sharp rock.
“I won’t,” the servant argued. “God will cause misfortune to rain down upon me for having committed the most heinous of crimes.”
Andros yanked the servant to his feet by his shirt. ‘Do it you low life filth, of I’ll humiliate you in front of your own children.”
“Let go of me,” the servant said, staggering backwards.
The servant stumbled towards the cornfields, torn between the act he was compelled to commit and the repercussions of not following through with it. Thankfully, he was the kind of guy who could weed his way out of unruly situations by thinking laterally. And think laterally he did, for the minute he reached the cornfields he picked up a rock and threw it against another with all his might, issuing a cacophonous noise to confuse his master. Leaving the infant hidden in the grasses he raced back to the dust road where Andros stood waiting beside the horse carriage.
“What happened?” Andros asked him.
‘I did it but I think someone saw,” the peasant panted.
“Quick let’s get out of here then!” Andros yelled.
Never once thinking that servant may have deceived him, Andros made haste for his hometown.
A great many years elapsed before Andros returned to the site of the alleged crime, this time for business. A blue-eyed, blonde-haired youth, no more than about sixteen or seventeen years of age, greeted him at the tall iron gates which guarded the entrance to the farmhouse.
“Is this the Nicholais residence?” Andros asked the youth
“This is it,” the youth replied. “My parents aren’t here today but they said you were coming to pick up some cedar wood for your fireplace. Is that right?”
“Come with me. I’ll show you were it is.”
“Nicholais never told me he had a son,” said Andros.
The youth smiled. “My parents are very private people.”
As they walked, Andros noticed a golden chain around the youth’s neck. His eyes dropped lower. A gold-plated coin swung over his pectorals as he walked. Andros noticed that the word “Naidis” was inscribed around its rim.
“What’s that thing around your neck?” Andros asked. “It says Naidis on it. Doesn’t that mean Foundling?”
“Oh, that’s my name,” the youth replied. “My dad hung it around my neck days after he found me.”
“Yes, right over there,” Naidis said, pointing towards the cornfields. I was a wee little thing when they found me, barely four days old. My mother said she’d seen a dream in which God bestowed a gift upon the household. In fact, God told my mother that she and my father should expect to find a bundle of joy in the most unlikely of places.”
“I’m not sure how much of it I believe,” Naidis went on, fumbling the coin around his neck, “but I do know that I’m adopted. I look nothing like my mother or father.”
Andros felt blood rush up to his head. How could this have happened? How could that damned servant of his have betrayed him like this? There could be no question that this was the same child he’d conspired to murder aeons ago. He knew that time was running out. He had to act fast to halt the unravelling prophecy dead in its tracks.
‘What’s wrong?” Naidis asked him. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Um… well… there’s also another reason why I’m here. One your parents don’t know about,” said Andros.
“I’ve got an important message that needs to reach home as soon as possible,” Andros winced, “and there’s simply no way that I can deliver it in time. My carriage was stolen by some armed thieves back there. Walking will take me days…”
Naidis rubbed his back. “Don’t let that bother you. I’ll deliver it.”
‘Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Naidis said. “We’ve got a horse all saddled up and ready to go.”
Andros withdrew a small parchment from his pocket, and scribbled something onto it using a black-feathered quill. He folded the letter neatly in half and handed it over to Naidis.
“It’s for my wife’s eyes only,” Andros told him. “It’s for her and only her.”
“Understood,” said Naidis. “I can’t read so you have nothing to worry about.”
The journey back to Andros’s residence was full of surprises. He’d been propositioned by a fortune-telling gypsy; he’d attempted communion with foreigners who spoke in strange tongues; and he’d brushed shoulders with the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church.
But there was one specific event that stood out, one he couldn’t quite jettison from thought throughout the duration of the trip. It had occurred near water. His intentions to stop for a brief hiatus had been sabotaged by his lethargy, and his exhaustion was such that he fell asleep beside the river, lulled to sleep by the running waters. He awoke to the realisation that the position of the letter inside his jacket had moved. It was now inside the front pocket of his pants. Had somebody moved it whilst he lay on the ground completely unawares? Stranger still was that it didn’t even look like the same letter. It had changed somehow.
In any case he attributed the phenomenon to his tired mind and pushed on, arriving at his intended destination before nightfall. The residence was an oppressively opulent mansion, framed by beautiful balustrades and decorated with stone lions, eagles and mythological creatures of every kind. It was a residence fit for the noblest of kings and queens.
As he dismounted his animal, he caught sight of a supernal maiden looking out from one of the windows. Naidis guessed that it was Andros’s daughter. He was entirely transfixed by her gaze. Desire began to well up from the fountainhead of his psyche. It fuelled a ravenous fire that burned in the pit of his heart and loins. It was love at first sight.
An elderly woman with sharp features was waiting for him at the door.
“Good evening madam, would you happen to be Andros’s wife?”
“It is I, yes,” she said.
“I have an urgent message for you,” he said, handing the letter over.
Naidis watched as her eyes scanned the document. The creases around her eyes and lips deepened as her lips curled into a smile.
“Finally!” she said, throwing the letter into the air. “Oh, I so knew that sooner or later, God would shed his light upon my husband he’d change his mind about our daughter. Finally she will be wed.”
“To whom?” Naidis asked, feeling a tight knot form in his stomach.
“To you my boy!” she yelled, pulling Naidis towards her. “You are the bearer of good news! He wants me to summon a priest and marry the two of you before his return.”
Naidis couldn’t believe his fruit-laden luck. He’d struck gold.
Andros returned home a week afterward, expecting to find Naidis dead, buried and confined to existence in the terrible past. Instead, he was greeted by an entourage that included his wife, son, daughter and an uninvited guest. He nearly had a coronary when he glimpsed the rings that hugged the index fingers of the latter two. He opened and closed his eyes rapidly and scrunched his face, but the hallucination wouldn’t disappear. It merely grew more concrete by the passing second. Naidis was still alive, and what was worse is that he was now part of the family, a son in-law and possible heir to his kingdom.
Andros cussed under his breath. His wife was certainly the primal cause of this inveiglement. It was she who was the cause of this evil, for she had openly flouted his authority. He waited until they were alone afterwards to vent his mounting fury.
‘What possessed you to do such a thing?” he yelled at her. “Why didn’t you do what I asked of you?”
“Stop screaming. I did exactly what was you asked of me,” she replied, throwing the letter at him. “That’s your writing, isn’t it?”
Andros scanned the letter. He stared at it aghast, staring at the words inscribed on the page in utter disbelief.
“It is,” he heard himself whisper.
“So what has angered you?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “In the morning, I need an urgent message delivered to the lumberjacks working our land up north.”
“I’ll leave a letter on the kitchen table first thing in the morning before I head into town,” he continued. “You make sure that Naidis is up to deliver it, you hear?”
“Naidis is to deliver it,” Andros repeated, walked out of the mansion and slamming the door shut behind him.
The following morning, Andros returned from completing some errands to find his wife picking dandelions, sunflowers and roses from the garden.
“Look!” she prompted her husband. “Do you like what I’ve picked for Naidis and our daughter? I’m going to put them in a vase and take it up to the room now. I want to surprise them.”
‘Wait a second!” Andros yelled. “Didn’t you send Naidis to the lumberjacks with the letter I left on the kitchen table?”
“Oh yea,” she said. “I forgot to tell you. He was still asleep when I went upstairs this morning. I didn’t want to wake him, for he looked so peaceful beside our daughter…”
Andros’s heart was beating so hard he thought it might explode.
“…so I sent it up with our son.”
“You did what?” he screamed. “You stupid, stupid woman.”
“Why are you upset?” she asked.
“How long ago did you send him?” Andros asked.
“About half an hour ago,” he wife answered.
Andros hastened to the lumberjacks, running as fast as his legs could carry him in a bid to overtake the tragedy which loomed so tangible in the air now, but it was too late. The letter was addressed to the rustic, heartless mountaineers who worked for him and was a threatening order which sanctioned the death and dismemberment of the person who handed it to them. When Andros arrived they had already disposed of his son’s body parts in a nearby well.
Letting out an ululation of despair, Andros threw himself into the well and perished. After the grim news of the horrific deaths reached the household, his wife jettisoned all sanity and became possessed by a madness which drove her to commit suicide in the heat of the moment.
They say that everything comes in threes. If we so adhere to this philosophy, then it might not be so surprising to know that on that fateful day, the personification of death known to the Greeks as Charos came to collect the souls of father, and unfortunately those of the innocent mother and son. This left Naidis and his newly wedded wife as the sole inheritors of a dowry fit for the noblest of kings and queens.
On the whole Naidis had little to complain about, for the “fates” were indeed ruminating in bliss at the same time he was born. Hence, their smiles were in his every breath and in his every train of thought. They pervaded everything that Naidis did, and carried him aloft a magic carpet to worlds where everything he touched just turned to gold.
And thus concludes the incredible story of the man called Naidis who was favoured by the three Fates.