The King Is Dead
“Raj! Raj!” Indigo was out of breath from screaming his name. The terrible scene kept playing over and over in her mind....
There had been hardly anyone at the table -- King Remus, Lagos, Nori, and herself. No one was around to see. Lagos, who had been surprisingly sullen and on-guard all night, suddenly stood up and bolted the doors. “Sir Liridam?”, Nori asked slowly. “What are you doing?”
Lagos had sat back down, sitting not in her own seat but the one next to the king, where Raj usually sat. She ran her fingers along the table and picked up a knife. “What I must do,” she said, “for the victory of my true master.” The next thing Indigo heard was Nori’s screams and the gasps of a dying man....
“Indigo!” Raj ran up to her. “What is it, love?”
“Raj!” Her breath was coming in ragged gulps, she was shaking, in shock, felt like she was drowning.... “Oh Raj, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry...your father, he’s...he’s dead!”
“What? No! No!”
“How? Was this murder?”
Indigo swallowed hard and nodded. “Yes,” she said, barely above a whisper.
“Who? Tell me!”
“Lagos...Lagos Liridam. It came out of nowhere, she said she had a new master and needed to serve him, and she just...she stabbed him. And there was blood, blood everywhere, it was so ghastly, and then she just laughed and...disappeared, literally disappeared. And he said...he said to tell you he loved you, and that you had to take his place, and that he hoped you would be a better ruler than he was....” Her voice broke. Tears were pouring down her face.
A strange look had come into Raj’s eyes, a look somewhere between shock, pain, and rage -- but mostly rage, pure and utter rage. “Why? Why? Why would she do this?”
“I don’t know, maybe there’s something or someone that we don’t know about, someone she’s working for. Some plotting courtsman, some anarchist group, some....” Then it slowly came to her. “Some outside enemy....”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. We have never had any outside enemies!”
“Er...my lord,” said one of the guards, who had just walked in. “Lukas and the other prisoner are secured. How do you wish us to proceed?”
Zane? He’s alive? “Raj, I don’t know anything about outside enemies. But I know of someone who does.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Right,” Raj said to Zane, “now is it true, what Indigo says about you having knowledge of the Kingdom’s enemies?”
“Why do you care?”
“Zane,” Indigo said, “his father’s been...been killed. By Lagos Liridam. I think it might have been, well, been what Gemini told you.”
“Gemini?”, Raj said.
“A star, Raj. We were visited by a star. Yes, they’re real.”
“What did it say?”
“That there’s going to be a war. I didn’t hear most of it, Zane can tell you.”
“I can?”, said Zane. “What if I don’t want to?”
“May I remind you,” said Raj, “that, in the bluntest of terms, I am not above torturing you for information, both of you.”
“Yeah, except I won’t let you,” Indigo said quickly. “We’re not doing that.”
“Indigo,” Raj snapped, “my father was just murdered. I will do whatever it takes to receive justice for that, and if that means torturing a couple of prisoners, so be it!”
“Oh, is that what’s going on here?”, Zane broke in. He looked at Indigo. “He will do it, you know. Trust me, I know what kind of things the loss of a father can drive a man to.” And he meant it. He understood. He suddenly began to feel a bit sorry for the prince -- and at the same time, it felt strangely satisfying. The very same thorn that had pierced his heart was now driving into his enemy’s. He knows now how it feels. How I feel, how I’ve felt from day one. In some backwards way, it felt almost like revenge.
“I know,” Indigo said quietly. “And that’s why I’m asking you to do this. This isn’t about you, Zane. Really, it isn’t even about him. This is about our entire world. Everything you know, I know, we all know, could be at risk.”
Zane was stone silent. So many things were going through his mind, he thought it might implode. What was happening? And why? And where exactly did he fit in, anyway? Gemini had told him he was one of their Chosens. So...did that make him ‘the Chosen One’, like in books? Was it simply random? Was there no rhyme or reason to the way the Stars chose their warriors? Did he have some kind of special ability, beyond of course predicting the future with his dreams? Was he really destined to save the world? His mind was aching. “What’s in it for me if I do help you?”, he said slowly.
“First and foremost,” Raj responded, “leniency. Tell us what you know, and once the war is won, you shall be pardoned of your past offenses, and go free. If you ask me, Lukas, I think that is a fairly reasonable reward.”
“First of all, no, I’m not sure as how I did ask you. Secondly”-- he paused just for a moment -- “I think I will accept your offer. But I have a few terms of my own.”
“One, Orion goes free.”
Raj begrudgingly agreed.
“Two, I want to be allowed some part in the war effort.”
“Meaning, I want to fight. I never saw a real battle during my brief time in the Corp. All I ask is you give me a sword and let me take my place on the front lines.”
“Excellent. Shall we shake on it, then?”
The two men shook hands. Then, Zane turned to Orion. “Orion,” he said, “I need to ask a very big favor of you. The fate of the world may depend on it.”
“Ask me away.”
“I know it will be hard, but I need you to try and get the Elves on our side. You need to convince them of what’s about to happen. Get help.”
“I have friends who may believe me. Hotep and Eileen Copperstone. Although, when I think helpful, I do not think Hotep and Eileen.”
“Hold on,” said Raj, “when did you begin making decisions? I am not allowing...them to fight alongside my army in my war!”
“You may want to, Raj,” Indigo broke in, mainly trying to end the discussion. “They are indeed the most fearsome people I have met. Also, if we are going to argue, can we please get out of this blasted dungeon cell?”
“I’ll find somewhere for them to sleep tonight,” said Indigo. “Raj, you go find Nori.”
“I will later....”
“Raj, your father is dead. What’s worse, she had to see it. She needs you. Go to her now.”
“Well...alright. Goodnight, Indigo.”
Indigo led Zane and Orion out of the dungeon and into the winding hallways of the Palace. “Now tell me,” she said as they walked along, “what happened in there?”
Zane told her the whole story. She shook her head. “I can’t believe...I can’t believe it. I can’t even. How all of this happens in one night...it’s absolutely unbelievable.”
“None of us shall ever be the same,” said Orion, “this is for certain.”
“What’s going to happen to you now, Orion?”
“It depends. If war does come, so be it. I will fight. If not, if life continues on, then I will have no where to go to. I will return to my tribe and tell my story in truth, and face whatever happens.”
“What do you mean?”
“Presumably, I mean exile. I have deserted my tribe for my quest, and as my quest has failed, I must return in shame. In fact, I shall be returning tonight. I should not stay.”
“Orion, you know you’re welcome to stay. No, actually, I insist you stay.”
“Because, when you go to Krista tomorrow, I want to be there with you. You’ll need some support. Now, let’s find you a place to sleep.” Indigo clearly had the last word in this, so Orion gave in. They found him a room and he said he was going to turn in. “Alright,” Indigo said with a smile. Then, she gave him a light kiss on the forehead. “Thanks,” she whispered.
Orion blushed. Zane grinned at him. “What she said, thanks.”
“Hirari vaticane esta silviam daar,” Orion said, modestly.
“And amari vaticane nesceriam probatur et,” Zane replied.
Orion smiled wide and shut the door without another word. “What did you say to him?”, Indigo asked Zane when they were out of earshot.
“He said, a warrior is proven by what he knows is right,” Zane said, “and I said, And a true friend is proven in time of great need.”