Ninius, the founder of the Assyrian empire and Nineveh, had two chamberlains, Parius and Lausus, who were friends. Secretly Parius greatly envied Lausus for his supposed greater influence with the emperor and could not get out of his mind ways that he might hurt him. Lausus, innocent of these thoughts, went out of his way to do everything he could to help Parius.

Eventually Parius could stand this no longer and determined to do something about it but he dared not involve a third party because of the power it would give that man over him. He therefore determined on poison and researched new unknown ones. Eventually he found one he thought suitable and determined to create a poisoned sheet, the same ploy that removed the fabled Hercules from this earth.

Soon Lausus was dead, his last moment utter agony. He was greatly mourned and many tears were shed, Parius leading the way. Emperor Ninius, full of true grief, took the son of Lausus into the palace and the young man was given to Parius to be instructed in the ways of the court. The lad was clever and learnt quickly. He gained such favour that soon he was actually preferred to Lausus and even Parius and was constantly being called into the emperor’s presence.

Parius summoned the lad. He praised him for all his good work but said that there was one thing, out of love for him, he felt he had to mention.

“You can’t know this but you have the most appallingly bad breath, so please try not to come too near the emperor when you attend him.”

The lad was shocked. He thanked Parius for his honesty but became so depressed that he would not leave his couch.

Ninius was distraught but, when he went to visit the boy, the young man turned away his face. Ninius engaged all the best physicians to try to end this melancholy. But even when he was sufficiently restored to resume his duties, Ninius noticed a certain reserve in the boy and how he often averted his face when Ninius was near. Now Parius often took the boy’s place in carrying out affairs of state.

Ninius asked Parius if he knew what the problem was. Parius fell on his knees.

“I know the truth but, out of the love I bore his father, I could not tell you, but he has told me privately that he finds your odour disgusting.”

Ninius went mad with rage but, recovering himself, he decided that the better course was to pardon rather than punish.

It was the time of the annual games and Ninius ordered the boy to take his place and to go out and be seen by the crowd in the royal regalia. Parius, angry that everything he did should be thwarted, went to the boy and asked him, in recognition of all the help he had given him, to be allowed to wear the royal regalia. The lad, who had no liking for such trappings, gladly consented.

So Parius appeared outside the palace in the royal regalia and was glorious to behold, thinking that, when Ninius heard that the boy had turned down this great honour, his punishment would be swift and brutal. But then an assassin, the curse of the powerful, rushed at him and thrust his sword into Parius’s heart, then fled to the chief altar to seek sanctuary.

When the emperor heard the news he assumed that it was the boy who had been killed but when he came to the spot he found Parius lying dead and the boy weeping over the corpse.

“How did this happen?” said the emperor, but the boy’s answer was muffled because he was still avoiding looking at Ninius, inciting him to further anger.

“Am I so loathsome to you?”

“No, it is I who must be loathsome to you.”

“Who told you that?”

In answer the boy looked down at the body of Parius. Thus the truth came out and Ninius realised Parius’s treason. He ordered the body to be hanged on a gibbet and, from then on, Lausus’s son became Ninius’s closest adviser.


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