When the dark ruler's seven favorites were peacefully asleep in their gates, Ozelot spread out his arms with great satisfaction: “Just look at them, my darlings. It's just wonderful how each one behaves in a human body. Each sin has another trick up its sleeve of how to defeat the virtues and worm its way into the human soul. Once they get a human to grant them entry, they can set to work, in peace and quiet, slowly poisoning the body until the soul is destroyed. I love the Evil Seven. That's why they have a place in the throne room,” Ozelot addressed Aron. The prince remained silent. An agonizing chill rendered him almost immovable. Mechanically, he continued on his way.
“Let's take for example IRA. Anger changes the human character into that of a dog. The annoyance of a human who suffers from bouts of anger becomes first recognizable by a deep crease forming on his forehead. Next, he gets so incensed that he clenches his fist until he can no longer control himself and he starts screaming. Just as a dog barks ceaselessly, so the aggressive impulse in the human increases more and more. Until the anger has poisoned his senses that the dog bites and the human kills,” the black baron stated triumphantly.
“Unless, the fit of anger can be broken,” Aron countered. “No soul is so weak that it loses absolute power over its passions. A burst of anger can be broken,” the prince insisted. Ozelot just laughed.
“Why don't you try it some time. When someone boils over with anger, when he sees nothing but red, he's no longer able to think. Then his heart seethes and fumes like a volcano, then it overflows with anger. Didn't I deliver a marvelous proof of the effect of IRA through the conflict between your parents? In the end, they were blind with anger (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) and incapable of finding their way back to each other. A true artistic masterpiece, come to think of it, that anger can lead to blinding. True, it took a while before anger was able to make its entry into your parents' souls, but this was balanced out by a sinister ending, just as I like it.” Ozelot grinned craftily and made fun of the Nubian rulers' fallibility. To Prince Aron it seemed like a blade was cutting through his heart. But Ozelot took no note of it.
“The volcano IRA is powerful. Just as powerful as the poison of INVIDIA. A slow-working poison for which there is no antidote. Once infected with ENVY, it will rampage through the body. It destroys all joy, paralyzes, eats at the heart, and calls up other vermin like hatred, for example, because one begrudges another what one doesn't own oneself.”
“It all depends on one's perspective,” the prince tried to make the best of it. “For it might very well be that one doesn't envy someone for his intelligence but admires him for it. Then envy can turn into inspiration. Let's presume that I don't envy his intelligence but I look up to this person as a model, as someone to imitate,” Aron was thinking of his father as he spoke. “One can envy a king or desire to become one. What do you say now?”
The prince delighted in having come up with such good thoughts as a challenge to Ozelot. But he just laughed out loud that the throne room reverberated.
“Look at me,” said the lord of darkness and spread out his arms. “I'm clever, so that makes me a paragon too.”
The sun prince was startled: “Then there must be good paragons and bad ones!”
“There you have it again. All that glitters isn't gold. It's up to you alone whether you can distinguish between the two,” said Ozelot. “But you would have to be really smart. Show me a human being smart enough to always be able to distinguish between right and wrong. Your laws, (1) (2) (3) (4) and with that he meant the laws of the High Order, “are after all nothing but guidelines originating in infinity.”
“We need these guidelines,” the prince defended the sunlanders' way of life. “Whether you like it or not, they are like stars in the universe. Without them the night would have no light. Stars light up the darkness and give us direction. They shine as bright and clear as our virtues.”
“Your virtues are much too strict. That's why nobody follows them,” scorned the darkling.
“They aren't strict. They are our protective shield, our armor against evil. Our virtues are our strength.”
“And even if your virtues were covered with gold, I can't stand them,” the master of dark forces spit over his left shoulder.
Aron spoke bravely against his fear: “Anybody can be guided by them along his way or at least try to, even if we again and again grope in the dark. Their brilliance is of eternal beauty. We love the stars above us and the divine order in us. The starlight endures through the ages. One can depend on them just as one can rely on the virtues,” the prince spoke as with tongues of angels.
Ozelot interrupted Aron with a shark-like smile. His helmet disappeared halfway and revealed the gigantic mouth of a beast-of-prey. “This sounds like a sermon. Only the gullible would fall for this. In this world everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Even stars come and go. They rise up and they burn out. There's no relying on anything or anybody. Or do I have to remind you of your parents? Wasn't it they who cared for nothing in the world anymore but the noble character of their people? In the process, the overwhelming task they set for their lives destroyed their own noble characteristics.”
Ozelot enjoyed his wickedness. He loved behaving in a spiteful way, especially when he was able to touch a person's most sensitive spot. Then the fire of meanness glowed in his eyes. And all this talk about brilliance and endurance of the stars which light up the night, he didn't care for that at all. For Ozelot, order was grounded in disorder. Stars that light the way were an abomination to him. Only darkness reigned supreme in the black world of his.
“Don't take this personally, but to be virtuous in order to serve the good is simply boring! Believe me, the good cannot be coerced,” Ozelot hid his true character and put on an act of courteousness. If he wanted to get Prince Aron of Nubia on his side, he had to play the role of the sensitive one. “People learn rules, only to break them at the right moment. They like to cross limits. Humans are just plain bad. It's not worth to believe that they are good at heart. But don't let this grieve you, my golden prince. You must face the truth. The kind of unbridled temper outbursts I'm able to stage creates suspense. A friendship could fall apart, a person could get killed. There's no telling how it will end,” Ozelot flashed a hypocritical smile.
“You shouldn't entertain elusive hopes, Aron. A grudger will always be consumed with envy. He never looks up to the one whom he begrudges his intelligence, his beauty, his talent, or his friends. Why, I ask you, should he make an effort to win friends and further the growth of his intelligence when it is much easier to nurture ill feelings? To pour tar on a swan's snow white feathers so that he will finally get his comeuppance, can only be the desperate idea of an ugly little duck. To rejoice over the dirt under someone's fingernails, that's the decease called INVIDIA (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) with which I afflicted him. You see, these deathly creatures are nothing more than bad deceases which poison the inside of the body, weaken it, inflict pain, and sometimes even lead to death, but at any rate into the realm of darkness.”
Prince Aron had heard enough of this. Slowly it dawned on him how much need there was to guide the Nubians toward different thoughts, toward good thoughts. As they were about to cross the throne room, the hyena chalice filled with abominations scurried after them in order to serve His Sinister Highness, the black baron, his favorite dish. Prince Aron noticed that he actually snacked on a large number of snakes. But who would be surprised? He was no less smitten with GULA than with the rest of the detestations. After all, Ozelot was evil personified and thus he never even dreamed of moderation whether in eating or in anything else. He never made a choice between too much or too little. Excess in eating was the kind of fun he wouldn't want to deny himself. Prince Aron remembered disconcertedly that he too enjoyed stuffing his face. Only a bad habit, so he thought, to help him deal with the loss of his parents. In reality, GULA (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) had already raised her head with the intent of poisoning the prince's soul. A gorger never has his fill. For voracious gluttony it made no difference whether a person indulged in overeating out of sorrow or frivolity. Main thing is that it reached its goal and delivered the soul over to eternal darkness. Bad food poisons the body, but bad thoughts poison the soul, the prince remembered the words of the official for good thoughts. They are like a virus that invades us and we cannot shake. Meanwhile, Ozelot polished off unperturbed and without pause, from the chalice that never seemed to be empty, here a living snake, there a lustrous snake, thus poisoning the dark ruler's dark soul while they continued on their walk along the seven gates wherein dwelled the seven evils.
Overwhelmed with fatherly pride, Ozelot introduced a particularly cunning and vexing member of the family.
“ACEDIA, (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) indolence is the gaoler who fetters the mind. This is the beginning of indifference,” he raved. “Her trick is to drain the beautiful, colorful world of its bright hues. When life loses its beauty then one sees everything gray in gray and it is not long before one becomes indifferent toward everything. And when one doesn't care anymore, then one turns into something like a rotten apple and gets used to boredom until all air has escaped. At this point, endless boredom turns into deadly boredom. Those who suffer from it destroy themselves because they do nothing against stemming the gradual seeping-away of the spirits of life; for everything depends on their staying in circulation.”
“And where does this insolence of the heart come from?” inquired the prince seeking to find the cause of this paralyzing effect.
“Acedia encircles the soul until the world stands still.”
“But idleness is the beginning of all vice, every child knows that,” the prince retorted.
“Knowing, true. But idlers seem to care little about your nuggets of wisdom. Even though nobody wants to admit it, idleness is very popular and makes people willing to accept indolence. Once accepted, it freezes people's actions into a block of ice and delivers them cravenly and weak-willed to their fate until they throw their entire life away. Indolence reaches the souls of the sunlanders quickly and without delay because human nature doesn't like expending any effort. This deathly evil has a special place in my heart,” the dark ruler couldn't hide his admiration, “for it hinders, in such a simple way, the unfolding of virtue so that I can pick up lazy sunlanders in droves.”
The sun prince had a hard time believing this for he knew only diligent sunlanders.
“Indolence and boredom are crimes against oneself. The world is full of possibilities. Isn't it true that everybody has plans and ideas, desires and dreams. The mere thought of not wanting to do anything or not strive for something is deadly to my mind,” Aron vented his indignation.
“Exactly my point. A sunlander who lazes about in the sun and rests on his laurels stops fighting. But whoever stops fighting, for love, for a dream, for a goal, will wilt before blooming. He withers away like a flower without water. The divine principle wills it that way.”
“You are talking of divine principles?” Aron replied horrified.
“But, of course. You and I are two sides of the same coin. You're the light, I'm the darkness. We belong together. You can't have one without the other. It's just a matter of disturbing the balance between us.”
“To the contrary. This is your version,” the little sun ruler waxed indignant. “It's a matter of keeping the balance between good and evil so that the order of the universe (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) is preserved.”
“Holy cow! Don't make me laugh,” Ozelot's coarse voice echoed in the throne room. “My dear enemy, since you see everything in terms of black and white, of right and wrong, permit me to get you a little more off balance. The best thing for you to do is post a piece of paper inscribed with “good” or “evil” to make sure that your sunlanders won't get things mixed up. But watch out, behind which inscription, do you think, are my deadly creatures hiding? For what's wrongdoing to you is virtue to me.”
If I'm to survive here, I'll need all my will power. I can't permit it to be dissolve in air by that defeatist Acedia, was all Aron could think before Ozelot beguiled him once again.
“AVARITIA, I almost forgot to introduce one of my most powerful favorites,” said Ozelot, pointing at a horrifying monster seated on a treasure chest. Prince Aron was aghast. The darkling acted as if these seven deadly creatures were well respected, esteemed citizens, the cream of his state. In all this, he praised one abomination after another among whom honesty was a totally alien concept.
“Avaritia (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) has many talents. She can awake the miser in you sunlanders. Why should one share I ask you, Prince Aron, when one can be stingy? I have great respect for greed for it nourishes the insatiable side in you. Show me the Nubian who doesn't want to have at least what his neighbor has. Still a bit more would, of course, be even better, Avaritia makes you think. And when you feel the throbbing in your temples: want to have that too, want to have that too, then you have become the sucker of greed.”
“Not wanting everything is also a decision,” the prince believed to know his people better.
“No one can escape the wheel of craving once Avaritia has her grip on a heart.” Ozelot always knew everything better. The good thoughts had to struggle hard to come to the little ruler's mind at the right moment.
“Everything has two sides,” Aron wasn't about to give up. “If one isn't satisfied with one's achievements, then one puts in extra effort in my country to advance further. That's what I call diligence.”
“What I'm talking about is greed,” the black baron thundered quite incensed.
“You seem to know a different kind of Nubian than I do,” replied Prince Aron without batting an eye.
Brave, brave, this little prince, Ozelot had to admit once again. Aron wanted to reproach the dark ruler with the fact that to his mind his evil seven were vile, mean creatures, but he preferred to keep quiet. He felt it was safer not to provoke the evil too much.