|posted on 2-Sep-2001 8:28:17 PM|
|The Importance of Being Elizabeth 3|
Disclaimer: I, in no way, am associated with the actors, writers, producers, etc. of Roswell. The rights to the show belong to: 20th Century Fox, Jason Katims, the WB, Melinda Metz, etc.
Summary: The truth about Zan's life on Antar, the rebellion, and his marriage. Please be sure to read Book 1 and Book 2 first.
Category: Max/Liz - honest
Authors Note: My thanks to all members of the RBI for their theories, and for their opinions of mine. My special thanks to three very special people. Qfanny, Shapeshifter and Bluecornmoon, without whose help, kindness, and encouragement this would have never appeared.
With the urgency of Rath's demand that Zan return to the ship immediately, he was rather surprised to find that there was no reception committee in the landing bay. He was sure that Rath, at least, would be there to greet him. It took him a second or two to realise that whatever it was, the problem was to be dealt with in the privacy of the bridge. He leapt from the scout ship, amongst the startled maintenance technicians working to secure the small craft. He called for medical technicians to care for the two men still in the scout ship, and hurried towards the bridge. What could be so urgent as to warrant the requirement of killing two men whose only crime was to be injured while protecting their prince? This was an action typical of King Xandor, but not Prince Zan. Something bad had happened, he surmised. Had the armies on Earth detected them?
Only one elevator seemed to be working, and the corridors were strangely empty. It was then that Zan noticed the signs of a recent skirmish. What had been happening? Somewhere in the back of his mind, he dimly recalled that he had noticed no Perdreian technicians in the landing bay. A strange sensation started to tingle at the back of his head. At last he entered the bridge, about to demand what had been going on. The reaction to his arrival, doubtless caused by the relief of his safe return, surprised him. To a man, the occupants of the bridge knelt on one knee, facing Zan, with their heads bowed.
"Welcome back, Your Majesty," Rath intoned, relief showing through the obvious strain on his face.
The implication of Rath's greeting, and the behaviour of the others was not lost on Zan. Instantly, he knew. Desperately, Zan wanted to collapse into a chair. The sudden grief of his loss; compounded by the exhaustion of the past few days finally catching up on him, nearly floored him. But Zan knew that he could not show that fatigue, or his emotion. Not now, not here. He had to remain strong. His father was dead and Zan was the new king of Antar and the Five Planets.
The bridge remained silent, the occupants still on one knee with heads bowed in respect, as was the custom. None could rise until King Zan accepted their homage.
"Rise loyal subjects," he half whispered at last. "Rise that you may serve your King."
One by one, they approached King Zan, took his hand, and kissed the finger that would soon wear the Royal ring. Rath waited until everyone else had performed this custom before he too repeated the gesture.
"Your Majesty," he started, as he rose. "Permission to return to Antar?"
Antar. His mother and his sister would be devastated. It would be two years before he would see them. Their mourning would have ended, but for Zan, only a few weeks would have passed. It would still be fresh in his mind.
"Yes, lets go home Rath," he sighed shaking the despondency from his brain. "As fast as possible."
There would be time for mourning later.
Zan sat in his Royal stateroom and stared at the wall. He and Rath had been talking all night, making sure that each knew what had been going on. With the exception of the truth about Borad, Zan had told Rath about his adventure on the planet and his meeting with a 'Human', requesting that this remain between them. Ordinarily, Rath would have made a joke about fairy tales or something, but he was somehow... different. Was it simply because Zan was a King now? Rath then briefed Zan about what had been happening on the ship, and how they all feared he had been killed, either by the gas or by the Kalithen rebels. He told of everyone's relief when he finally made contact, about how only the missing scout ship offered any hope that he was safe. Zan had enquired as to the condition of Geltar and the Kalithen Flight Technician, whose name he found out was Ren. It pleased him that both were recovering well.
Rath saved the worst news for last. He told Zan of Tentious and Taysha's involvement in the rebellion, and how they had been 'arrested' outside Zan's own chambers. As anticipated, Zan took the news extremely badly, and sank into his chair with great sigh of resignation. No matter where she had been found, Zan refused to accept that she had been a willing participant. But it was not this that bothered him.
"Have they been interrogated yet?" Zan asked quietly.
Once the Secret Police had interrogated a suspect, there was usually little left of them. He could not bear the thought of lovely young Taysha's fate at the hands of the Police. Zan thought of the interrogators of one of the armies that Taysha had shown him a few days ago. They fought for the side that Claudia had told him was evil. Yet they were so much like his father's, no... his own... police. Did this mean that Zan was the King of an evil race?
"No, sire," Rath responded, causing Zan to sigh with relief. "I requested that they wait until you had been found. I thought that maybe we might have to use them, you know, if we needed a hostage trade, or something."
The relief Zan felt was obvious. Ordinarily, the ship's Commander would be in charge of all matters on board. But he was Perdreian, and had perished on the bridge, killed by the deadly gas. In Prince Zan's absence, Captain Kishan, leader of the police unit would have taken on command of the ship. With the death of King Xandor, Kishan would have had absolute authority; even Rath would have had to defer to him.
"Good. Tell Captain Kishan that he is not to interrogate either of them without my permission."
"He will not like it, sire," Rath stated flatly.
"He doesn't have to like it!" Zan said quietly. "He just has to do it!"
"By your command, sire," Rath responded tersely, and then left.
Forever robbed of what little anonymity he had, Zan remained in his chambers. He had much to do, and they would be entering the wormhole in days. Where should he start? He thought about Claudia White's stories about how things were handled on Earth, and wondered how these ideas might be received on Antar. He called for his newly appointed temporary chamberlain, a loyal Kalithen about twice Zan's age. His name was Denbers, and was once a Science Technician, until he received his new appointment.
"What do you think I should do with the rebels, Denbers?" he asked quietly.
Denbers looked at his King cautiously.
"Allow Captain Kishan to interrogate them, and then drop them in the worm hole," he replied. "Make examples of all evil traitors."
Zan stared at him in amazement. What was it Claudia had said? For evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing. It had been something like that.
"They call themselves patriots," Zan informed him. "They believed that what they were doing was good. How does that make them evil?"
"We were victorious, sire," the chamberlain said, as if that explained it all.
The winners write the history books. Zan sighed, and slumped in his chair. Zan remembered how Claudia explained that the treatment of the nations that had lost the "War to End all Wars" had actually lain the foundations for the next big war. If he allowed the rebels to be treated as Denbers suggested, would this not give rise to the next generation of those opposed to Perdreian rule? Would he in fact, just be creating yet more enemies?
"Take down these orders," Zan commanded. "I want them obeyed, to the letter, by everyone. Even the... no, especially the police."
"Yes sire," Denbers replied, taking a small device, and waving his fingers over it. It would record Zan's voice as he spoke. Later, it would be transmitted to everyone on board the ship.
"First, I want Guardsman Geltar and Flight Technician Ren to receive promotions and commendations for the part they played in saving and preserving my life on the planet's surface. Second, I want to see that Guardsman Borad's family does not suffer any for their loss. Place them in my care, at the palace. Find them suitable jobs, or make sure they receive the best tutoring possible."
Zan had suggested to Geltar that they allow Rath and the others to believe Borad had died. Geltar had believed that this was because Zan had disobeyed a last order from his father. It was actually because the voice had advised Zan of this. Zan was learning to trust the voice. As it turned out, Borad had no family anyway.
"Thirdly," Zan paused. His next order would be bound to stir up trouble. "Place Lady Taysha and her father, Lord Talbuth, in more comfortable chambers, give them one of the larger suites. Place two men on guard. No one, and I mean NO ONE is to enter their chamber without my authority."
"But sire," Denbers objected, "Captain Kishan...."
"If you are going to tell me that someone won't like this, I will take that as your resignation. I am in charge here. I give the orders, and I expect them to be obeyed. Are we clear on this?"
"Good. Now lastly, I want all the rebels that have been arrested made comfortable. I do not want them to suffer any unnecessary hardships during the journey through the wormhole. Take the third level quarters, and move the current occupants to other empty chambers. There are enough of them now. Place all the rebels on the third level, and place guards in all the corridors."
Zan glared at Denbers, daring him to make a comment on his orders.
For the rest of the day, a steady stream of visitors had approached King Zan, offering their support to guide him through this turbulent time. It was surprising just how many close friends his father apparently had, he reflected dryly. Once the offer of unwavering support had been made, it was usually followed with an offer of their services as his trusted advisor. Zan recognised sycophancy when he saw it. It was as if they all recognised a chance for power, by controlling a naive young King. After he thanked them, and told them that he would consider their offer, they would proceed to tell him how rash his initial orders were. Nicely, of course. Zan would try to politely dismiss them, but they were always so dogmatic about it. When they became too tiresome, he would allow his mind to drift, and think about Taysha, and how he might resolve the situation she currently found herself in. When not thinking about Taysha, it would be Claudia, and her uncanny resemblance to the girl in his vision.
It took three days for the transfer of the prisoners into more comfortable quarters to be completed. Lord Talbuth and Lady Taysha had refused the offer of a more luxurious chamber than their co-conspirators had been allocated, so Zan was forced to place them on the third level with the others. Elsewhere, the ripples of his actions spread across the ship, and there were many that warned that this sign of weakness would have far reaching effects. Captain Kishan was furious, and was only slightly placated by the fact that Zan allowed him to question the prisoners, with the exclusion of Lady Taysha, as long as no unnecessary physical or mental abuse took place. Rath spent all his time inspecting guards, checking the ships' readiness and conducting spot searches for any further threat, anything that would keep him busy. Zan had been a King barely a week, and already Rath was avoiding him.
Zan had to summon Rath in the end. He entered the King's chambers, and stood by the doorway, awaiting the King's word.
"Leave us, Denbers," Zan nodded to his chamberlain.
"But, sire, I should... " He complained.
"Now would be good," Zan said loudly.
"You sent for me, sire?" Rath stated in a neutral tone, as Denbers left.
Zan rose from his seat, and walked over to the small console he had some technicians install. He had the lighting changed, so that the console was shrouded in shadow, to allow him to better see what it projected. A holographic image of the planet Earth slowly revolved above it. Zan watched the side that slowly crept into the light.
"You should have seen it, Rath. It was beautiful," he said quietly.
"Yes sire. I'm sure it was."
He clearly did not want to be here. Zan sighed sadly.
"When we had that fight, all those years ago," Zan spoke quickly turning towards Rath. "You said you would never treat me like a king. Then we became friends. That’s what I liked about you, you weren’t like the others. When I was just a prince, you treated me like a friend. I'm the same person Rath. How come you now treat me like... a King?"
"Because like it or not, sire, you are a King." Rath informed him.
"Am I not still your friend?" Zan asked, in a quiet, tentative voice.
Rath looked hard at Zan, as if he were somehow looking for the changes.
"A king cannot have friends, sire." he answered cautiously. "He has loyal subjects, and he has enemies."
"What are you, Rath?" he asked quietly. "Are you just a loyal subject? Or are you now an enemy?"
"I am your most loyal subject, sire." Rath objected.
"So, when you were in a panic because I was nowhere to be found, was it only your loyalty. Or was it your concern for a friend?" Zan asked.
"You were not the King then."
"So just because I lost my father, I have to lose my friend too? Is that it?"
"Like I said, A Ki...."
"A King can't have friends. Yes, I know. Heard it before."
Zan was rapidly becoming impatient.
"Was there something else, sire?" Rath asked flatly. "I have my duties to attend."
This was why he had summoned Rath. He needed a friend's advice for how to handle what he had to do next. But with Rath’s reluctance to be a friend, this seemed to bring into question whether he should in fact discuss this with him. With a deep breath, he broached the subject.
"I'm going to talk to her, Rath." He almost whispered.
"I would advise against that course of action, sire."
Zan looked at Rath closely.
"Are you advising against this as my friend, or as a loyal subject?"
"As your most loyal subject, my King", Rath said sounding surprised. "I advise that you leave Lady Taysha and her father to Captain Kishan."
"Of course. A king who will not listen carefully to advice honestly given would be a fool." Zan said with a sad smile. "He would be an even bigger fool if he blindly took any advice he receives."
Rath looked up at him in confusion.
"If my friend had advised against this, I could discuss with him the reasons why." Zan stated. "I might even listen."
"But you have already made up your mind," accused Rath, "so what use would a friend be, your majesty?"
"You are dismissed Rath."
"But sire, I..."
"If you want to be a loyal subject, Rath, then you had better learn to obey orders when they are given."
"Yes sire!" Rath spat.
When Rath left the chamber, Zan's shoulders slumped. That had not gone well, and he had fallen into a rather childish tantrum. This was not how he had imagined being a King would be. But then, he had always assumed his father would be on the throne for decades to come. He thought that he would have plenty of time to watch his father, to learn how to rule properly. With a deep sigh, he turned to the image of the Earth, and saw the area called 'New Mexico' was just turning to face the sun.
"I hope it's a beautiful sunrise, Claudia White," he softly whispered. "Enjoy it for me."
Thinking of Claudia made him think of Taysha. It was strange how he found the two almost inseparable in his mind. Despite Rath's concerns, Zan knew that he had to see her now. This had to be resolved before he changed for the journey through the wormhole. Not only did he miss her; the voice told him that the time was right. He sent for Denbers.
Zan stood by the small console, watching his globe slowly spin. The sun was shining down on New Mexico now. It would be quite hot. He hoped that Borad would be all right. He heard the door hiss behind him, and he sensed the fear in the young lady that entered. His heart lifted, as just her mere presence could do to him. It was his deepest wish that his presence would do the same for her. He knew that by the console, he would be in the shadow, and so she could not see him clearly, but he remained looking at the globe.
"Your majesty sent for me?" she inquired in a strained, vitriolic voice.
Zan sighed. There was no easy way to handle this.
"Please, Lady Taysha. Sit down, make yourself comfortable." Zan said as pleasantly as possible.
For her comfort, he had ensured that a comfortable seat had been placed close to the door. Zan's heart ached.
"No thank you, sire." she spat icily. "I will stand."
Zan felt the cold waves of hatred now, mingled with those of fear. He could sense that she was on the verge of panic, and he could hardly blame her. He had known this would be difficult.
"Are you comfortable? In your quarters, I mean."
"My cell, is more like." she replied quickly.
Despite her fear, she was determined not to show it. She is so strong, this one, he thought.
"If you would prefer, I can arrange to have you and your father placed in proper cells. Small, cramped, dark and cold. Would that satisfy your indignation?"
Zan berated himself for this outburst. He knew how she must have been feeling right now.
Taysha was momentarily lost for words, as she considered her options.
"No." she replied with a touch of defeat, her shoulders slumping. "That won't be necessary. My father is not as young as he was, and I thank you for seeing to his comfort."
Zan did not like what he was doing to her. He had not summoned her for a fight.
"I am not the monster you take me for, Lady Taysha." He said gently.
"I am just Taysha now, sire." she half-whispered, but spitting the word 'sire' as if it burned her. "Your father saw to that. My title was removed, as was my father's. We are commoners now."
"You could never be a commoner, Lady Taysha", he told her truthfully. "You are far too lovely."
"You failed to rape me, so now you try to seduce me?" she asked incredulously "You flatter yourself!"
Although she could not clearly see him, the look she threw his direction was filled with venom. Zan instantly noticed she made no reference to his royalty, and laughed softly. Such fire! What a queen she would have made. He realised that it did indeed seem as though he was seducing her. It wasn't that he would not want to, just not now. Not under these circumstances.
"Your pardon, my Lady." he chuckled "Just as I am not trying to seduce you now, I can assure you that I did not try to rape you then."
"I am not your 'Lady'" she snapped. "That title belongs to another! And as for the other matter, your majesty forgets that I was there! I know what would have happened to me, had my uncle not come in."
"That was my first visit to Lord Servetrius' palace," he stated.
"Oh," she sneered, "what a coincidence."
"I had only just arrived, when I saw...."
"A most beautiful girl, and you had to have her, right?" she interrupted with sarcasm. "Is that how it was with Lady Ava, too?"
"It is a shame, Lady Taysha," Zan snapped, "that you do not listen as well as you talk. Being someone who claims to be a scholar, how do you ever hear your tutors?"
Zan could sense her sudden shock, and felt saddened that he had to rebuke her in that way. At least it had made her quiet.
"I saw... " He continued gently, "Lord Rath. For some reason, we took an instant dislike to each other. We traded insults for a few minutes, and then finally, one of us challenged the other to settle the matter behind the servants' quarters. After fifteen or twenty minutes of fisticuffs, we were covered in mud, blood and bruises. We only stopped because my sister, Princess Vilondra, came out and put a stop to it. We were in no state to return to the ball, so instead we played cards, and dice, in the servants' refectory. Neither of us were any where near the Ballroom."
He paused, allowing her to absorb the information.
"I do not doubt that someone attacked you that night, Lady Taysha," he gently told her. "I do not believe that you are a liar. However, I believe that you are mistaken as to the identity of your attacker."
Zan so desperately wanted to hold her, to soothe the fear and the pain from her.
"This is a new one." mumbled Taysha. "Of course Rath would back up your side of the story. I would expect no less."
"I can prove that it was not I that attacked you."
Zan turned from the globe, and stepped into the light. As she saw whom it was who emerged from the shadow, the look of fear and anger was momentarily replaced by a look of relief... and of joy.
"Jervad!" she exclaimed with a huge smile, taking an unconscious step forward.
But then her eyes narrowed, and she looked nervously around the room. The relief and joy soon disappeared. Now she looked... hurt.
"What trick is this?" she asked, the anguish in her voice clear.
Zan was pleased to note, however, that while her anger had returned, her fear had not.
"It's no trick, Taysha." he said gently, taking a step towards her. "I am King Zan."
"No, no!" she cried. "You're Jervad! You told me so!"
At his forward step, she retreated back towards the door, which made Zan stop. He released a sad sigh.
"I know." he whispered. "That time I met you, I was trying to be anonymous. You know, just relax without all the pomp and circumstance. I'm sorry that I deceived you."
"And Kandor? Was he Rath?" she hissed bitterly.
"You knew, didn't you." she stated, her eyes widening. "You knew there would be an uprising. You and Kandor, you're spies for Prince, I mean King Zan! Aren't you! And now you're here to find out what you can. You're trying to trick me into giving up names, or something."
"No, Taysha!" He said urgently. "I'm not a spy! I'm not trying to trick you! I don't care what names you have. I don't want to know. All I care about is that you believe me. And as for knowing about the uprising, I didn't. Know, I mean. I suspected. And I begged you not to get involved. I so badly wanted you to be safe."
Zan suddenly found that his feet were fascinating.
"Well, I guess I became involved the day you tried to rape me," she hissed.
Zan looked up at her quickly, an incredulous look on his face.
"Look at me, Taysha. Who do you see?"
"I see Jervad, but you tell me you are King Zan."
"Then why did you say that I tried to rape you? Was it I?"
"No!" she shouted, clearly confused. "No. Not you, Zan!"
"Taysha, I am Zan." he confirmed urgently.
No!" she cried, scrubbing her face with her hands. "No! It's a lie, Jervad! I saw him! He tried to rape me!"
"Taysha, I am Zan. I am the same man you invited into your chamber, the same one you wanted to kiss."
Zan paused, and again studied his feet.
"The same man, who wanted to kiss you," he whispered.
"But you are NOT King Zan!" she cried. "Stop tormenting me, Jervad. Why are you doing this? I thought we were friends. I though you liked me!"
Tears flowed down her cheeks.
Zan dropped his shoulders; this was not going well at all. He had hoped that she harboured the same strange feelings for him, as he held for her. Ones that instinctively told him he could trust this frail looking girl. With a sorrowful sigh, he waved a hand towards the door. A guard entered the room.
"Would you escort Lady Taysha back to her Father's chamber, please? She should not be alone."
The guard stood back for Taysha to leave the room, when a sudden inspiration struck Zan.
"No. Wait!" he cried. "Taysha, please be seated."
Taysha stopped, and still crying, slumped into the chair near the door. Zan felt suddenly bad. He had done this to her. He had defeated her.
Zan led the guard out of his chamber, and whispered something to him. The guard departed at once, and Zan went back inside his chamber. He found Taysha standing by his globe. She jumped back guiltily. When he moved to join her, she again stepped away, moving more into the light, so he went over and sat back in his chair.
"I went down there, Taysha," he said pointing to the globe. "Remember that night, when you showed me? I visited that same spot. It's beautiful Taysha. I would love to share it with you, one day."
He spoke gently, softly hoping that his feelings for her would somehow help her. Although he could sense her nervousness, and hear her soft cries, when she looked up momentarily, there was a hint of curiosity in her eyes. Despite her anguish and pain, she is intrigued, he thought. He started to laugh silently, a gentle smile on his lips.
The door opened, and the guard escorted Taysha's father, Tentious, into the room. Instantly, he saw his daughter crying and the King relaxing in a chair with a satisfied smirk on his face. There was no sign of a guard. Naturally, he jumped to the wrong conclusion.
"You bastard!" he screamed, and with a lunge that completely surprised the guard, the old man had thrown himself at Zan.
King Zan quickly rolled from the seat, and onto the floor, just missing the old man's charge. His force caused the seat to crack; at least Zan hoped it was the seat, leaving Zan with little doubt as to what would have happened to him if he had not been so quick. The guard was on Tentious in an instant, pinning him to the broken seat.
"I'm sorry daughter," he cried in anguish, his own tears falling at his failure to protect her. "I'm so sorry."
Taysha immediately ran to him, looking at Jervad, or rather, Zan, for some kind of help. She wanted the guard to release her father. Zan nodded to the guard who removed himself from the man, now crying huge sobs of grief. Taysha swept her broken hearted father into her arms. Zan pushed away a momentary twinge of jealousy.
"Leave us." Zan commanded.
The guard looked startled, but nodded his acceptance of the order.
"And say nothing of this, please. It didn't happen."
Zan knew that he had his guards' complete loyalty. They had heard of Zan's refusal to abandon Geltar, and how he had carried him back to the scout ship. They would do anything for him now.
I'm sorry, Taysha." Zan said softly. "I didn't think. I should have realised what conclusion he would have jumped to."
"But why should he attack you Jervad?" she asked through her own tears. "He doesn't know about you. He doesn't even know you are... were... a friend of mine."
"Ask him, Taysha." he urged gently.
"Ask him what?" she asked, her pain etched on her beautiful face.
"Ask him who I am."
She looked down at her sobbing father, cradled in her arms, and back up at Jervad, whose own face was a mask of sorrow. She did not really want to know. The world was somehow safer if the man before her was Jervad, a man to whom she could give her love, and not Zan, a beast who would steal that love from her.
"Father," she asked gently, "Father, do you know this man?"
"What game is this, daughter." He sobbed. "This is King Zan, and I was unable to protect you from him."
Taysha looked up, tears flooding her lovely eyes. Her emotions were completely jumbled, but in that instant, Zan saw the one emotion he feared. He knew that now, whether he was Zan, or Jervad, the Lady Taysha would never forgive him. She truly hated him now. Both of him.
"I will leave the two of you alone, Taysha." he gently told her. "I think you two will have much to discuss. The guard will see that you are not disturbed. When you are ready, he will escort you back to your own chambers."
As the tears cascaded from the beautiful eyes that had haunted Zan's sleep for weeks now, she simply nodded her thanks. Zan left the chamber, and wiped away his own tears. Perhaps he should have listened to Rath after all.
It was a lonely life, being a king. Zan finally realised why his parents had pushed so hard for him to get married. If he had a wife, at least he would have someone to talk to, someone who would not be calculating how much power they might obtain from their conversation. More than ever, he missed Ava. He desperately needed someone to hold him, and tell him things would be all right, that what he was doing was right. How he wished Vilondra were here, so he might hear her mock him, helping to end this misery.
He knew that from now on, he could not talk openly, in case someone took a casual remark as a promise, or an insult. His words must of necessity, remain guarded. Rath continued to avoid him, and the high-ranking nobles and officials continued at pretending to be his friend while seeking some sort of advancement. The only ones who he truly trusted were his Royal guard and Geltar in particular. Once his leg had been healed, Geltar had volunteered to be Zan's personal bodyguard. Zan had only accepted this, because it gave him someone to talk to.
Rath had been furious when he found that he did not command the loyalty of the Royal guard. They would not inform him of Zan's whereabouts, or what activities he was engaged in. Every time he gave an order, they would tell him that they responded only to the King. Technically, this was correct, but until recently, they had obeyed Rath's orders because he was the King's representative, looking after the prince. But just as Rath had pointed out to Zan, things were different now. This new frustration only seemed to add to the alienation that had grown between Zan and Rath.
There were now less than two hours to go before they reached the wormhole. Zan had already issued the orders for the Royal guard to shape change. The few Perdreian Technicians who had managed to somehow survive the deadly gas had already done so. Only Zan and Geltar remained. Before he himself changed, Geltar had approached Zan and informed him that Lord Talbuth had requested an urgent audience. Zan was waiting for him now, hoping that Talbuth had not come to bargain. Treason was punishable by death, so he suspected that Talbuth would probably offer to trade the names of high-ranking rebels on Antar in exchange for the lives of him and his family. Zan hoped that Talbuth was better than that.
Geltar escorted Lord Talbuth into the room, and knowing Zan's thoughts on the matter, left immediately. Zan knew Geltar would have already searched him thoroughly.
"May I have a word, sire?" Talbuth asked nervously.
Zan noticed straight away that the edge of anger that he had always sensed about Talbuth had gone, but his tenseness remained.
"Is Lady Taysha all right?" he asked, temporarily delaying Talbuth's reason for being here.
"As well as can be expected," he answered. "Considering what she has gone through."
"I never meant to hurt her." Zan told him honestly.
"It is never the intent that causes the damage, King Zan. It is always the deed."
"Still the tutor?" Zan asked with a raised eyebrow. "You still have some lessons to teach me?"
Lord Talbuth smiled.
"When I first met her, I wanted to be ordinary, you know?" Zan explained.
Talbuth remained silent.
"She was so friendly, so vibrant. I somehow knew that if I told her who I was, she would not be so... open." he paused "At the time, I didn't know about what she thought of me. I mean, the other, royal me."
"How do the both of you fit on one throne?" Talbuth asked with a light laugh.
It was the first time he had heard Talbuth laugh. Under other circumstances, they might have been friends. Zan smiled with him.
"When people see me," Zan continued, "they are not just looking at... me. They see my father's name, the palace in which I grew up, the extravagant clothes. They are looking at a... prince."
He laughed, as though it was funny that anyone could consider him royalty.
"You are who you are." Talbuth replied, as a father talking to a young child. "Isn't it just as false to pretend to be someone else as it is for others to pretend they are talking to you, when they are only talking to some ... prince?"
Zan looked up quickly, his eyes searching for something in Talbuth's. At that moment, Lord Talbuth knew that he was standing before a man who might one day be a great King indeed.
"How little you know my daughter," Talbuth added with a whisper, dropping his eyes from King Zan's stare.
"But your daughter is not the reason you wished to speak with me, is it?" Zan sighed.
Lord Talbuth suddenly looked edgy.
"In a way, she is, sire." he started. "I know what you are thinking, for I have been in this very same position, before... before... well... you know."
"I am not here to bargain. I made my choice, King Zan, and I am prepared to suffer the consequences."
"Proceed." Zan stated when he realised Talbuth was waiting for him to say something.
"All I ask is that you spare my daughter and my wife."
"Your wife, I understand, Lord Talbuth. But why do you ask me to spare your daughter? I begged her not to get involved. I told her to seek safety, and to hide. She told me she would. Instead, she was up there at the lead. I'm told she was found outside my private chambers. I grant that her intentions were misguided, but the evidence against her is strong."
Talbuth looked defeated. He had somehow hoped that Zan's obvious feelings for his daughter might somehow buy her a reprieve from the executioner.
"I had to try." he sighed. "May I have your permission to leave?"
Zan watched him as he nervously swayed from one foot to the other.
"Not yet, Lord Talbuth," he said finally. "Since you come here to trade, I will offer your daughter clemency, in exchange for information."
"I told you earlier, sire. I will not bargain with names."
"Not that kind of information, Talbuth." Zan reprimanded. "No, this is more like a lesson, a lecture, if you will."
"I want you to tell me about the Perdreian Prince and the Kalithen Princess."
"You want me to tell you about yourself and Lady Ava?" he asked, incredulously.
"Don't play games, Talbuth." Zan said calmly. "You know exactly about whom I speak. You must decide quickly, for I must change shortly."
Talbuth narrowed his eyes, as he tried to find some twist that might free him from this task. At last, his shoulders dropped, and he sat in the nearby chair with a deep sigh.
"Alright," he said quietly. "You must remember though, what I have to say is only legend. There is no factual evidence to substantiate this story. I will tell you truthfully everything I know, but I do not claim that it is authentic."
"I understand, Talbuth." Zan said eagerly. "Just tell me."
"Her name was Princess Isozilde." He started. "She was considered a great beauty, among all three of our races. Our seers had read her stars when she was born, and had proclaimed that she would rule Antar and the Five Planets. Her father was King Kador. He showed loyalty to King Shadoral, but in reality, he plotted his downfall, so that his daughter would rule in his stead. There is nothing new in this latest rebellion, King Zan." Talbuth shook his head sadly.
"King Kador had selected a number of suitable suitors, each a potential King. He introduced them to Lady Isozilde, who rejected each and every one of them. Lord Kador grew angry, and demanded that she make a choice. Her character was such that she would probably have run away, but external events overtook them. The ongoing war with the barbaric H'Manz pushed the matter to the background, as the three races combined their entire forces so that they might finally end this centuries old war."
"It had been discovered that the visitors, refugees from a galactic cataclysm, had been secretly assisting the H'Manz, for they planned to steal a weapon of great power, and so rule, themselves."
"What weapon was that?" Zan asked, thinking of the Granolith.
"I don't know. No one can ever explain what weapon this could be. If someone had been in possession of some powerful weapon, why had the war gone on so long? The visitors, and their H'Manz allies were finally trapped by the great Pyramid Mountains and the Holy Sea. It was thought that all was finally over. As they prepared for battle, Prince Traznor, son of King Shadoral appeared on top of the Pyramid. At his side stood Princess Isozilde, holding Prince Traznor's hand. They were both dressed in robes of gold, and they shone with a kind of light. Together, they produced a shield of power, separating the two armies. The H'Manz made their escape with the visitors, fleeing in their space ship to who knows where."
"After they had gone, and the shield had fallen, King Shadoral, King Kador, and their respective personal guards climbed the Pyramid. When they came down from the Pyramid, Prince Traznor was clad in chains, while the body of Princess Isozilde lay dead on the mountaintop. Although the Perdreians denied it, it was agreed that she had been slain by one of the Perdreians, some say Shadoral himself. Prince Traznor himself had lain a curse upon the Perdreians, promising that a Kalithen Queen would be reborn, slay the false Perdreian King, and the Kalithens would rule the Five Planets. The alliance was over, and the Perdreians somehow managed to flee from the Kalithens and Tanbo-ens now allied against them. Over the next few decades, through the use of advanced weapons, Kalithens and Tanbo-ens were soon brought under Perdreian rule. The Kalithen Royal family was abolished, and we now all swear allegiance to yours. Over the years, Kalithen rule has passed from one family to another, usually based on the whim of the current King. Now, of course, Servetrius rules."
The room went quiet while Zan considered this. He remembered his dream, where he stood next to Taysha on a mountain, with an army below them. They were wearing gold robes, and they loved each other.
"Talbuth," he asked. "Do you, or do any Kalithens believe that Taysha is Isozilde reborn?"
"Of course not, King Zan." Talbuth laughed. "We do not believe in fables and fairy tales. Taysha is just my daughter. Nothing more."
The Importance of Being Elizabeth 3
Disclaimer: I, in no way, am associated with the actors, writers, producers, etc. of Roswell. The rights to the show belong to: 20th Century Fox, Jason Katims, the WB, Melinda Metz, etc.
Summary: The truth about Zan’s life on Antar, the rebellion, and his marriage. Please be sure to read Book 1 and Book 2 first.
Category: Max/Liz - honest
Authors Note: My thanks to all members of the RBI for their theories, and for their opinions of mine. My special thanks to three very special people. Qfanny, Shapeshifter and Bluecornmoon, without whose help, kindness, and encouragement this would have never appeared.
Zan was again staring at the globe when Geltar returned from taking Lord Talbuth back to his chamber. He walked up to his King, and looked on the image as well.
"Are you thinking of her?" he asked, tensely.
"Yes, Geltar, " he sighed. "I hope she and Borad will be well. It will be four years, or more, before we can return."
"Forgive me, sire, but is that the only reason you think of her? I saw how she looked at you. You surely cannot be thinking..."
He stopped short at Kings Zan's laughter.
"No, Geltar." he chuckled. "I hold Claudia White in my heart, the same way I hold Vilondra. I love her like a sister. I believe this woman is very important to me, though I know not why."
"And Lady Ava? How do you hold Lady Ava?"
"I don't know, Geltar." he sighed. "I don't know."
"Sire, forgive me for saying this, but if the prophecy is true, our only hope is in your union. Lady Ava is a direct descendant King Kador. As close to Kalithen Royalty as you can get. Surely she will be the Kalithen Queen foretold."
A slight whine echoed through the ship. They were starting to fire the Star Drive, enabling them to travel at speeds greater than light, through the wormhole.
"Lord Rath informs me that we have twenty minutes before we enter the wormhole." he paused.
Zan knew he had something else to tell him, something he did not want to do.
"Lady Taysha is outside. She requests an audience. I have told her that you are about to change, but she begged that I at least ask if you will see her."
Zan's heart leapt at the news, but he wondered why Taysha wanted to see him.
"Send her in Geltar, then go to your chamber and change. As soon as I have seen Lady Taysha, I'll change too."
"As you wish, sire... but may I speak freely?"
"Of course, Geltar."
"Please allow a Kalithen guard to remain in the room with you. There are many that do not trust her. It might do more damage than you can imagine, if it became known she was in here, alone with you." He paused. "Sire, I do not trust her, she doesn't belong here."
Geltar opened the door, and allowed Taysha to enter. He bowed to his King, and reluctantly departed. Taysha's face showed the signs that she had been crying, probably non-stop since she found out the truth. One of the Kalithen guards stepped in behind her, obviously at Geltar's request.
"Lady Taysha," Zan greeted her, as pleasantly as he could, hoping to show that whatever her feelings for him, he still cared for her.
"He cares for you a great deal, doesn't he, your majesty?" she stated, neutrally. "But I think he does not much care for me."
"He is a good man. He saved my life, down on Earth."
"Was it really beautiful sire? On Earth, I mean?" she asked, walking towards the console.
Zan looked at her curiously, and smiled. At least she was not afraid of him.
"Yes, Lady Taysha. It was. And I meant it when I said I would have liked to have shown you."
A shadow passing across her face as she recalled those events.
"Who is Claudia White?" she asked suddenly. Then she remembered her protocol. "Sire?"
Zan looked at her suspiciously. Only he and Geltar knew Claudia's name, and he had only told Rath he had met an Earthling. How had she found this out?
"Geltar was complaining because I asked to see your majesty," she continued, clearly sensing his unease. "He said you should be changing. When I begged him, he told me I was worse than Claudia White. He was horrified when he realised what he said, so I guess it must have been some kind of secret. Um... I will tell no one."
It brought a smile to her lips. only a small one, but Zan thought his heart would burst. Thank you Geltar, he whispered, silently. Zan looked up, carefully studying the lovely woman before him.
"You have this way about you, Lady Taysha," he said softly. "People seem to trust you."
Taysha looked over to him, and smiled, a little sadly. Trust. Such a fragile word.
"Claudia White is an Earthling." he continued. "We met her on Earth, and she helped us when were in trouble. She is a most remarkable young lady."
"Oh." Taysha replied, looking down at her feet.
"My father told me, sire," she said. "About what you and he agreed. Thank you."
"You're welcome Lady Taysha," he smiled earnestly. "Though I must admit that there was never any need for him to bargain. No one will be heading for the executioner when we get home. Not even your father."
"Thank you. Would you just call me Taysha, please, sire? I can pretend that we are still friends then." Tears ran down her cheeks.
"Of course, Taysha. But I would like to think that we are still... friends," he replied, honestly. "There is no need for any pretence."
"That's impossible, sire," she whispered, looking into his eyes. "You are the king, and I have been... involved in an attempt on your... life."
"All things can be fixed, Taysha."
"Not all things," she responded sadly. "May I ask another favour, sire? Would you allow me to be imprisoned with my mother?"
"Of course, Taysha," he whispered sadly. "I will see to it that you share the same... quarters."
"Thank you, King Zan. I wanted to ask you now, before you changed for your journey through the wormhole. I know at the other end, you will have more important things to worry about than the fate of your prisoners."
She turned to leave, and then stopped.
"I'm glad that you are safe, my lord."
She emphasised 'my lord'. Zan knew that whatever her emotions were at that moment, she had forgiven him. She rushed to his side, kissed his cheek, and fled the chamber in tears.
The whistle of the Star Drive was getting louder now. He could feel the beginnings of the pain it caused. When he changed, he would be unable to do anything except sit back for the two weeks that the journey would seem to take. Perhaps he could delay his change, and use the time to check things on the Databanks. He instantly knew when they had entered the wormhole. He suddenly felt as though he was wearing a suit of metal, and it was two sizes too small. He felt every organ in his body being crushed. He found that if he concentrated on gently pushing back against the force, the pain eased, but only slightly. At least it was bearable, and he could think on other matters. The high-pitched whistle in his head was agony, but it was a small price to pay. His kingdom, perhaps his very planet was in great danger, and he did not know from whom.
There was no time to waste. He knew that Rath would send someone to check him on a regular basis, and once he discovered what he was up to, there would be an argument. The sooner he found answers the sooner he would change, and make everyone happy.
"Databanks, open." he commanded, looking upwards.
Now that he was the King, he had the authority to unlock the records his father had locked.
"Databanks open, King Zan."
"Image of Lord Talbuth's trial. Display."
"Image record does not exist, King Zan."
That was strange.
"Transcript of Lord Talbuth's trial. Read."
"Transcript record does not exist, King Zan."
Zan should have realised that his Father would have taken steps to remove those records in the event of his death. What other records have been lost? Why would he have done this?
"Eyewitness account of Baron Shastiv. Read"
"Reading. King Xandor and Lord Servetrius were standing on the dais, watching the dancing. Prince Zan and Lord Rath had disappeared together over an hour ago, and had not been seen since. Lord Talbuth stormed into the ballroom, looking very angry. Lord Talbuth was carrying his young daughter, the Lady Taysha, who was sobbing in his arms. Lord Talbuth started shouting at the King, accusing his son of attacking his daughter. The King was outraged, furious that Lord Talbuth would make such an unfounded accusation. The whole room was shocked when Lord Talbuth demanded justice, and called Prince Zan a most ingratiouse name. At Lord Servetrius' suggestion, his Seer was summoned. Blessed with the ability to read peoples memories, the Seer quickly determined that both Lord Talbuth and Lady Taysha...."
"End!" Zan commanded. " Lock record by my authority."
"Confirmed, King Zan."
Clearly his father had not known about this record. Though he had to grit his teeth against the pain, he knew he had to get to the bottom of this. Something big was going on, and it all seemed to revolve around Lord Talbuth and his daughter.
The day wore on, and Zan spent all that time thinking about everything that had happened, of all the events that had so far occurred. It was like the unravelling of some great... plan. He considered the problems that must have existed for such a plan to work. Then he turned his attention to the recording again. He had been playing it over and over. There was one part that he did not understand, and he felt that this was somehow at the heart of the problem.
"At Lord Servetrius' suggestion, his Seer was summoned. Blessed with the ability to read peoples memories, the Seer quickly determined that both Lord Talbuth and Lady Taysha were lying."
How could someone do that? He needed to know.
The Kalithen guards outside his chamber nearly jumped out of their skin when King Zan emerged through the door and asked them to bring him some food, and to fetch Lord Talbuth for him. One of the guards ran down the corridor, looking extremely pale. Meanwhile, Zan returned to his console to wait. When the buzzer went, he was not surprised to find that it was Rath.
"What are you doing, sire?" he demanded, angry that Zan had not changed.
"Rath, stop it!" Zan commanded, as if telling off some small child. "I don't know why you are acting like this, but whatever the reason, stop it right now, and be my friend. At least until we get back to Antar."
Rath looked at him fiercely, but then his shoulders dropped.
"All right," he said sullenly. "Then as a friend, why haven't you changed yet?"
"Because something big is going on, Rath," he said urgently. "I think there is more to this rebellion than just some Kalithens wanting to go home. I think there is a whole revolution about to strike Antar."
"Okay, Zan," Rath said, obviously thinking on this. "Give me one reason why you think this. Something that isn't some tenuous link to an ancient bed time story."
"The fact that I am a King now," he answered, "And that I survived an attempt on my life."
"How does this prove it?"
"You knew my father, Rath. He was a fit, strong man with no genetic illnesses. How could he have died so suddenly? What if he was assassinated? Who would take over?"
"You, of course."
"Exactly. What would have happened, if I had not decided to visit Earth? What if I had stayed on board the ship?"
Rath contemplated this.
"You would probably be dead," he said quietly.
Rath sat down in Zan's chair, clearly considering the implications that Zan had already thought through. The whole thing had to have been very carefully planned and somehow, co-ordinated across whole galaxies. Just who would have been involved?
"There's nothing you can do out here, Zan." he stated, reaching no immediate solution himself. "Why haven't you changed?"
"Because I think that Lord Talbuth is being used. He doesn't know what is going on, but he is involved. And I think Taysha is also a puppet of some kind."
Zan explained what he had learned from Talbuth, concerning Prince Traznor, and Princess Isozilde. Rath was still sceptical, insisting they were just fables. Zan could see, though, that Rath was at least considering what he had learned.
"I asked her to marry me." Rath whispered quietly.
"Who?" Zan asked, but he knew the answer.
He remembered the conversation he had with Taysha, the one when she had asked if Rath had said anything to him. He knew now that she had been referring to this.
"Lady Taysha," Rath confirmed.
"What did she say?" Zan asked in a strangled voice, not really wanting to know.
"A lot of things, but the bottom line was no," he whispered. "The strangest thing though, Zan. When I asked her, it did not feel... right. Like I shouldn't really be asking her. It was kind of like I had asked... Ava.""
"Why are you telling me this, Rath?"
"Because Lady Taysha is in love with you."
"No, not any more." he sadly sighed. "Not now that I am Zan."
But then Zan remembered the kiss that she had given him, and brought his fingertips to his cheek.
"I hated you for that," Rath continued. "I hated that she loved you. I hated that you were lying to her. I hated that she gave her love to you, and that you are betrothed to another. And I hated myself for hating you."
The guard returned with a tray of food for Zan, so Rath sat quietly, allowing him to eat. He could see that Zan was suffering, and that he could not concentrate enough to do two things at once. He knew that the pain had to be particularly bad for him, Perdreians were not as sturdy as Kalithens.
"So now you know." Rath said with a soft chuckle, when Zan had finished.
"Know what?" Zan asked, thinking Rath was continuing his explanation of why he had been behaving so strangely.
"How much it hurts. Of course, for you, it has to be worse."
"But only once, Rath." Zan smiled, though it was more like a grimace.
Lord Talbuth was equally surprised to see that King Zan had retained his normal shape. He showed genuine concern that he was in some way harming himself. Rath excused himself, leaving the two men to talk.
"How is Lady Taysha, Lord Talbuth? I know she does not like the pain. Is she all right?"
"She is still in her chambers." Talbuth chuckled. "I have not seen her."
"Talbuth," Zan said, cutting the pleasantries short. There were important issues to discuss. "Many people's lives are at risk, perhaps the very existence of a planet, and I need some answers."
"I will not give you any names, King Zan." He sighed.
"No, no." Zan added urgently. "It is just some simple information on Kalithens I need."
Talbuth considered this.
"Could Lord Rath not help you in this?" he inquired.
"No," Zan sighed, shaking his head. "Rath has enough worries of his own. I though you would probably know more."
"My daughter told me about your promise." he said after a moments thought. "About placing her with her mother. Thank you. What is it you wish to know."
"When you originally made the accusation, against me, and your daughter... you know..."
Zan still found it painful to talk about it. How must Taysha feel?
"As we have found out, King Zan." Talbuth interrupted. "My daughter was mistaken. She genuinely thought it was Prince Zan who had attacked her, but we now know it was not."
"But when you made the accusation, Lord Servetrius sent for a Seer. He read your memory, and said you were both lying."
"Yes, that's right, sire." Talbuth agreed. "He did."
"How could he do that?" Zan asked.
Talbuth looked up suddenly, his eyes mirroring some inner turmoil.
"I don't know." He sighed. "At that point, King Zan, I had realised that it did not matter what proof or evidence I had. King Xandor was not going to accept the word of a Kalithen over that of his own son. I was defeated the moment my anger allowed me to face him in the first place. The Seer gave Xandor an acceptable excuse to exonerate his son."
"So it seems I simply have a doppelganger, then," Zan sighed, "One who preys on young women in my name."
Zan sat alone in his room, while the minutes ticked away. He really should think about changing, but not yet. He had to think. What was gained, he asked himself? Lord Talbuth and his family lost their titles, and were no longer influential in the political arena. Clearly, they had everything to lose by making such a false allegation with no solid proof to back it up. Lord Servetrius was immediately raised to become the new leader of the Kalithens, but he had been his father's friend for decades. If Servetrius were behind this plot, it was after all, his palace, why had he waited for so long before engineering some plot to overthrow Talbuth? What else was gained?
He was convinced the answer was in front of him, something to do with those words from the transcript. Zan called for the ship's Holy Seer, Hefesys. He seemed surprisingly unconcerned of the fact that Zan had not changed, unlike his Chamberlain, Denbers, who had become extremely agitated. Zan knew that if Denbers were to become the chamberlain permanently, he would be no better than Ava.
"Hefesys, do you know anything about the ability to read peoples memories?"
"Yes sire, of course." he stated. "Some Kalithens are blessed with it."
"So it's not an ability limited to the Seers?" Zan asked, surprised.
"King Zan," Hefesys started, "the Seers do not posses any ability that is not possessed by a non-Seer, with the exception that we are able to 'sense' the will of the Universe."
"Tell me about this ability, of reading memories."
"It's a rare gift," Hefesys began. "The possessor of such a gift can place his hand on the head of someone, and extract their memories. We call it memory walking."
"Can this be resisted?"
"Oh yes, but only by someone with a will stronger than the memory walker. But the harder one resists, the more painful it is." He paused, considering whether to continue or not. "We would call that a Mind Rape."
Zan flinched with distaste.
"At the trial of Lord Talbuth, a Seer said both he and his daughter were lying. When Lady Taysha told me of her ordeal, she did not seem like she was lying to me. So why didn't the Seer... see the memory?"
Hefesys seemed to be considering this. Zan could see that the Seer wanted to suggest that Taysha was in fact truly lying, but that Zan did not want to see the truth.
"I don't know," he said simply.
Zan took this in, and concentrated on what he had learned. A sudden inspiration struck him.
"Can it be reversed?"
"What?" Hefesys asked.
"This memory thing. Can a false memory be given to someone? Can you make someone think something happened?"
"Not in that way, no," Hefesys said, thinking of something.
Zan's shoulders dropped, he felt so close.
"But an even rarer gift, is the Mind Warp."
"What? What's that?"
"Someone with this ability can make you see something that isn't there. They can make you feel something that didn't happen. There are some whose ability is so strong, they can expand the image to make those around you see the same thing happening. What you see, and feel is so real, you will never believe that it is false. But it would still be in your memory, King Zan. A Memory Walker would still see it."
Zan collapsed into his chair. That was an amazing power to have. How dangerous that would be. And how was it that the Seer saw nothing? Were the memories placed in Taysha's mind only after the accusation had been made?
"I'm not surprised that Lord Talbuth chose not to mention that particular ability, King Zan."
"Why do you say that?" he asked, confused.
"The power of Mind Warp runs strong in his line." he stated. "His daughter will almost certainly posses it."
Zan spent the next few hours using the console in his room to display the names of the players involved in the demotion of Lord Talbuth. The first two names he put up were Talbuth and Taysha. Servetrius, Xandor, Rath and Zan all followed. He added Ava and Vilondra, with question marks. The harder he looked, the more it seemed that all of these names were but mere puppets in a play, the strings of which were being pulled by someone that was hiding in the wings. He tried hard to remember names from the time he spent with his father. He had not generally paid attention to the people his father met; he thought he would have time to prepare to be a King later. Only two names kept coming to him, Traznor and Isozilde. Was Taysha Isozilde reborn? He just knew that Talbuth believed she was. A part of Zan did too.
Zan turned his mind to considering the scenario that would have occurred had the rebellion on the ship been successful, and he himself had been slain. With both his father and himself dead, who would benefit from such an action? He had no brothers, so his sister, Vilondra, would take the throne. Was she involved? No, he knew she loved him, as much as he loved her. She would never betray him. Was there perhaps a male relative somewhere unaccounted, with a spurious claim to the throne?
"Databanks, open." he again commanded.
"Databanks open, King Zan."
"King Xandor's line. Genealogy. Display."
"How many generations, King Zan?" queried the voice of the Databanks.
"Calculate as far back as we have data. Display last five." he said, after careful thought.
As the family tree appeared before Zan, he was struck by how singular it appeared. Until the line reached his father, each Perdreian King produced only one child, a son in every case. His father was the first King in the five generations displayed to have produced a second offspring, a daughter. When he paged beyond the first five levels, he found that the line stopped at the sixth generation, with King Trevnan.
"Explain break in line." he commanded the Databanks.
"King Trevnan was distant cousin to King Dorshan. King Dorshan died with no heir. No data held for ancestors of King Trevnan."
"King Dorshan's line. Genealogy. Display." he intoned.
As the royal line continued from King Dorshan, back through the generations, again each King produced only a son. One name suddenly leapt out at Zan. It was a name that made him go cold. King Shadoral. So much for legend, he thought. There was, however, no mention of a son, Prince Traznor, only a Prince Slodar.
"Prince Traznor. Details. Read." he whispered, almost knowing the response.
"Data record does not exist, King Zan."
At every turn, he was running into brick walls. Clearly, someone did not want him to know the facts. Perhaps this was the action of a past king, his father? After all, the prophecy said that a Kalithen Queen would destroy the Perdreians. But surely, the more information held would help the Perdreians to prevent such a thing. For evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing. But who was good, and who was evil here?
He thought for a moment.
"Do we hold any records at all concerning Princess Isozilde?"
"Search prohibited at King Trevnan's command."
Interesting, thought Zan. No one had checked this record in generations.
"Sanction search on my authority." He commanded, and then added "Lock record, and prohibit search except by me, on my authority."
"Confirmed, King Zan." The databanks intoned. " Birth star-chart of Princess Isozilde is held in databanks."
Zan wondered why the birth star-chart of a mythical legend might be held.
"Compare birth star-chart against all females at court." He commanded, and then added, "And include Lady Taysha. Is there a match?"
"Confirmed, King Zan." The databanks responded. " There is one match."
"Details, read!" he urgently commanded.
Who was it? Lady Taysha? It had to be! A birth star-chart was as individual as a DNA structure.
"Birth star-chart compiled 5 minutes after her birth, match belongs to Lady Ava, daughter of Lord Servetrius."
His mind reacted violently, losing the control he was exerting on his body. His thoughts all screamed. NO! This could not be. Zan collapsed with the sudden overload of pain, quickly causing his rational thoughts to return. When he finally calmed his mind, and adjusted himself to the pain, he considered what he had learned. In his mind he knew the truth. His parents had known of this, and it was the reason why he was constantly being pushed to Lord Servetrius' daughter. It was as Geltar had said, their only chance lay in his marriage to Lady Ava.
"Compare birth star-chart of Prince Traznor against all males at court."
"Star-Chart does not exist, King Zan. But data previously input indicates that you are Prince Traznor."
Whether he liked it or not, Lady Ava was his destiny. His heart, however, refused to believe it.
"Who was the originator of the data?"
"Could the data have been incorrect?"
"Data has no corroboration, King Zan."
A sudden though occurred to him.
"Lock birth star-chart of King Zan, and prohibit search except by me, on my authority."
"Star-Chart does not exist, King Zan."
Zan knew that this was not true. He had seen his star-chart himself, on any number of occasions. Someone must have deleted it.
"Check history. Search for deletion of King Zan's birth star-chart."
"History record found, King Zan."
"Who authorised its deletion?"
"Your father, King Zan."
His father again. What had he been playing at? It made no sense. Why would his father remove real evidence that might proclaim him the saviour of Antar, and replace it with possibly fabricated data that suggested the same thing? Perhaps he was not who he thought he was! Perhaps his birth star-chart proved that he was not Prince Traznor.
Was he Prince Traznor re-born? He certainly felt like he had some important task to do. He firmly believed that somehow, that task was bound with Princess Isozilde, and with Lady Taysha. A sudden thought struck him.
"King Kador of Kalitha. Genealogy. Display"
There it was. King Kador produced a son, Prince Isobahn, and a Daughter, Princess Isozilde. However, as with the Perdreian line, each of King Kador's line, produced only a single male heir, until it reached... Lord Servetrius. There it changed. Unlike all his ancestors, with the exception of Kador, Lord Servetrius had two issues, Lord Rath, and Lady Ava. He sighed at the inevitability of it all.
Lady Taysha was not feeling very well. She hated the pain caused by the Star Drive, and by the constant whistle she heard in her ears. She was more fortunate than most Kalithens, for she only existed in two time zones. The pain for her was not as bad, but that did not mean it hurt her any less. Now she had another reason to dislike it. It had taken Zan from her. It was a strange thought that the man she had hated for so many years was now a part of her heart. She would never get used to the Perdreian metabolism in their changed state. A single day for them was the same as fifty-two of their days. She had seen a Perdreian in that state once, it was like looking at a statue. To them, the Kalithens would be invisible; their voices like the high pitched buzzing made by a fly. She wondered if she spent the day sitting still in his room, would he see her, if only for a moment?
Finding that she actually liked Zan was strange to her. True, she liked him first as Jervad, but it was the same thing, in the end. The best thing was, her father did not disapprove of that friendship, not now that he too knew the truth. Sadly, though, it was all for nothing. She had betrayed him. The fact that she was an unwilling participant would mean nothing. Even if she told him, he would never forgive her. Anyway, she would never see him again. By the time Zan would return to his normal state when they reached Antar, she would have been taken away to where ever she would be imprisoned. She felt sad, and lonely.
She opened her door, and waited for the guard to check her progress, but was surprised when neither guard moved.
"Could you ask Lord Rath if I might have permission to visit my father, please?" she asked.
One of the guards looked at her.
"Lady Taysha," he greeted her. "King Zan left instructions that you have leave to go where you wish. The only condition is that a guard accompanies you at all times. I have been asked to assure you that this is for your protection, and not as a punishment of any kind."
"He did?" she asked in surprise. "Why should he do that?"
The two guards looked at each other and smiled, shaking their heads.
"Okay," she said, "Can I go to my father's chambers, please."
"If that is your wish, Lady Taysha."
She found her father in his seat, staring at the ceiling. Her guard allowed her to enter the room on her own.
"I'm lonely father," she said quietly. "May I spend some time with you?"
"Of course, daughter," he smiled. "How are you Taysha?"
He rose as she approached him. He gave her a fatherly kiss, and held her.
"Is the pain bad?" he asked.
Taysha suddenly realised that she no longer felt the pain. Thinking back, it disappeared when...
"Father," she whispered with awe. "Father, I feel no pain. At all. I started thinking about King Zan, and it... it went away father."
Talbuth stared at his daughter, and laughed.
"Knowing King Zan, he has probably found some way to take your pain upon himself."
"What do you mean, Father?" she asked, leaning back from his embrace.
"Well, it's obvious, to me at least, that our King has strong feelings for you."
"It's not obvious to me," she sighed.
"There he was, contorted with pain, and he asks me if you are all right." he laughed.
"What do you mean? Is he all right?" Taysha asked in a panic. "Has something happened to him?"
"No, Taysha. Calm down." her father laughed gently, "He has not changed yet. He is trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle when he has only half the pieces. And those he has don't fit the puzzle he is working on."
"He hasn't changed? He must be in agony."
"I believe he is, Taysha," he answered. "But it is of his own choosing."
He sat down in the chair again, and started to think. He was clearly a man with much to think about.
"You should have asked him for a console." she said. "He has one in his chambers, you know."
"Yes, I've seen it. But I don't need one. I have all my knowledge," he tapped his forehead, "up here. The things I am thinking on at the moment are best kept there."
"He has an image of the Earth on it," she said softly. "Did he say anything about his time down there?"
"Not to me," he answered. "We talked about us Kalithens, mainly."
"What did he want to know?" she asked, starting to pace the room.
"First, he wanted to know about Princess Isozilde. How do you suppose he knew about her?"
"I don't know, father, but I told you he was smarter than you thought."
"Yes, you did, Taysha. Anyway, then he started asking me about memory walking. I told him I knew nothing about it. Watch him, Taysha. I know you are growing fond of him, but remember that he is Perdreian. It might even be that he is smarter than you yourself think."
"Father, do you really think that the spirit of Princess Isozilde lies within me?"
Talbuth stared at her cautiously.
"Your birth star-chart was identical to that of Isozilde. I saw it when your betrothed had it cast. When you and he marry, it will be the end of Perdreian rule, and Kalitha shall rule the cosmos," he said gently.
"How can I marry him if I am a prisoner?" she asked. "I still have no right to marry."
"Can you not see, daughter?" he said to her in amazement. "The prophecy is guiding our steps, protecting you. It has seen fit to make Zan fall in love with you. He will not lock you up, and he will return your right to choose your own husband. You will see. It is such a pity that Zan has to be so... likeable. Who would have thought Xandor could turn out such a son. If it were not the time prophesied, he would make an excellent King. As it is, it shall be you, and your betrothed who shall rule."
"Zan does not love me, father. He hardly even knows me," she told him.
But why was her heart pounding so hard? Why did her father's words fill her with such joy, and the reminder that she was secretly betrothed to another dismay her?
"He does, Taysha," he replied, looking at her carefully. "But how do you feel about him?"
"I like him, father," she confessed, sadly, "a lot."
"I like him too, Taysha. But there is too much at stake here" he whispered cautiously. "Do not let your feelings run away with you. You must be strong, for all our sakes. Have you told him anything?"
"No, father, but I want to." she said, as she crossed the room to the door. "Maybe he can think of a way around this. I hate my destiny."
"I agree that it was easier to deal with, when we thought that it was Prince Zan who had tried to rape you. The fact that we are aware of the truth only complicates things. This doesn't effect just you, you know."
"I know." she sighed, as she waved the door open. "It effects Zan and his family too."
"That's not who I meant," he sighed. "Where are you going daughter?"
"To see Zan, of course." She smiled over her shoulder.
"Remember, Lady Taysha," he warned, in his statesman voice. "If you tell him any of this, he will be forced to ignore those feelings he has. He will renege on the agreements he has made, and execute us all. He will have no choice. No matter how likeable he is, he still has responsibilities."
Zan was thinking of Taysha, again. As if thinking her name had somehow been a signal, the buzzer to his chambers sounded. He was pleasantly surprised to find Lady Taysha at his door.
"So it's true then," she stated crossly, pushing past him and entering his room uninvited.
Behind her, her guard looked on in shock. Zan indicated for him to enter with a grin.
"Greetings, Lady Taysha. How nice it is to see you. Won't you come in?" he said mockingly.
"Yeah, fine... whatever!" she shrugged. "What are you doing? And I thought we'd agreed that you would call me just Taysha."
Her guard was staring at her open mouthed. How dare she speak to their King this way! Chuckling to himself, Zan held his hand up to him, indicating that it was okay.
"What shall I answer first, Taysha?" he laughed. This was better... much better.
"Well, the second part is moot, now that you have dropped the 'Lady' part," she said crossly. "So how about explaining what you are doing."
"Until you barged in, I was examining the Databanks. There are a few things that don't quite add up, and I really want to solve them before we get to Antar," he explained.
"So why haven't you changed?" she demanded. "You must be in agony."
"No more than you," he said calmly. "It also gives me a chance to see what the Kalithens and Tanbo-ens must suffer on our behalf."
"That is just stupid, Zan, and you know it!" she shouted. "Are you doing this just to impress me?" Because if you are, you needn't bother, she thought. I am so impressed by you every day, by what ever you do.
He loved her spirit. It pleased him that she showed such concern for him. If Ava had been on this journey, she would probably have requested that he not change, and endure this pain just to keep her company.
"Besides," she continued, walking up to Zan, and standing right before him. "I am not in pain, right now, as you full well know."
Zan looked confused.
"I'm sorry Taysha, what do you mean?"
"Have you somehow taken my pain upon yourself?" she demanded.
"I am not doing anything to ease your pain, Taysha. I'm struggling to keep my own under control."
"Then what is happening, Zan?" she asked. "Why don't I feel any pain, at all?"
But she knew. It was as her father had said. Somehow, the prophecy was keeping her safe. She wished it would keep Zan safe too, but she had long known what his fate would be. If only she could end this.
"Zan, I've been thinking," she blurted out. "When we get back to Antar, have me executed. For my crimes."
"What?" he asked, incredulously. Surely, he had not heard her right. Where on Antar had that come from?
"Taysha, what are you talking about?"
"I've been thinking about it," she whispered, "a lot. When news of what happened up here reaches Antar, I'm going to become a kind of figurehead. There are whole factions out there who will try to rescue me. To make me lead them against Perdreian rule. Against you."
"Because you are Isozilde?"
"Yes," she whispered, and then her eyes opened suddenly. "What? No! Who is Isozilde? Another of your Earthling friends?"
She placed a curious stress on that last word. Was she unhappy that he had met a female Earthling?
"No," Zan smiled cautiously. "Just a name I heard."
"So you will do it?" she asked looking at him sadly. "You will have me executed?"
"Of course not, Taysha." he smiled at her. "I could no more execute you than I could cut off my right arm. And I know that you will not betray me, Taysha. I know that you will not let yourself be used like that again."
"How can you be so sure, Zan?" she asked, her body threatening to collapse into a storm of tears.
Zan looked at her, and then glanced at the guard behind him. He took her hand between both of his own, and gently caressed it.
"I believe in you," he stated firmly.
They stood staring into each others' eyes for what seemed like ages, until the guard made his presence known. While Zan looked slightly embarrassed, Taysha slowly eased herself away, albeit reluctantly.
"There's a storm coming, Taysha," Zan spoke gently. "Don't ask me how I know, because I don't fully understand it, but somehow I know that we will be facing this storm together."
"I don't think so, Zan," she said, her eyes dropping to the floor.
Her heart had soared when he had declared his belief in her, but it sank again when he reminded her that her life seemed less and less in her own control now. Perhaps it was destiny, perhaps it was the prophecy, but something was driving her forward, to a fate that she no longer embraced.
"Oh," Zan said, completely misreading Taysha's response, and releasing her hand. "Forgive me Taysha. That was presumptuous of me."
Taysha's hand suddenly felt cold to her.
"Zan?" she asked quietly.
"Yes?" he responded, looking at her intently.
"Will you be changing your shape? To finish the journey?"
"Not until I have some answers, Taysha." he smiled. "Not until I am aware of what I am up against. I want to be ready Taysha." There was a pause, as he seemed to search for the right words. "I don't want to die."
Taysha smiled at him sympathetically, and walked towards the door. As the guard moved out before her, she paused, and turned back to Zan.
"If it gets too much for you, Zan, the pain, I mean," she told him sincerely, "send for me. I'll come and see if I can help ease the pain in some small way."
The door closed behind her, bringing tears to Zan's eyes.
"Your presence alone eases all of my pain, Taysha," he whispered.
It became a habit for King Zan and Lady Taysha to spend an hour or two together, every day over the next two years. A guard always accompanied them; Zan wanted no false rumours or innuendo to complicate an already troubled situation. At first, Zan would discuss what he had learned, but he saw the pain this caused Taysha. So they talked of inconsequential nothings, of their childhood, and of their friends. Taysha had grown up, surrounded by family and friends, all of whom were very important to her, and she missed them dearly. Zan had been surprised to discover that Taysha and Ava were born just one day apart. To Zan, Taysha seemed more... mature... than the ingenuous Lady Ava. Perhaps it was just the circumstances of her recent life, making her grow up more quickly, but somehow, Zan knew that Taysha had been born strong. He insisted that Taysha tell him about her experiences on her first survey, just after her father's trial. It had been a sad, lonely time for her, and reduced Zan to more tears in the privacy of his own chambers. For her part, Taysha was quite saddened at the fact that Zan had only three people in his life that he could call a friend, apart from herself. One of those was his sister.
"Poor lonely King Zan," she had teased him in an attempt to lighten the mood, but her heart cried for him.
After each meeting with Zan, Taysha would visit her father, who never asked what they had talked about. He knew of his daughter's growing feelings for Zan, and in the same way he would never reveal any information of any plots against the King to Zan, he would not press his daughter to reveal Zan's confidences. He would, however, remind her who she was, and what it was her destiny held. After her discussion with her father, with whom she also had her meals, she would retire to her chamber where she would finally drift of to sleep, crying tears of sorrow.
The two years passed much more quickly than Taysha would have liked. Had things gone better, she would have spent these two years with a young man she had fallen in love with, called Jervad, while they orbited and studied Earth. They would have secretly become close, maybe even lovers. When they returned to Antar, perhaps they would have found a way to remain together. But this was just a foolish dream. He wasn't really Jervad and she wasn't who he thought she was either.
As they moved into the last two weeks of their journey, things were being made ready for their emergence from the wormhole. There were many Kalithens to remove in secure conditions, for a start. Although King Zan had decreed that none would face the executioner, they would still have to be transported to a high security compound. They would then make the ship ready for the very formal reception that would be held in King Zan's honour.
Taysha wished there were some way that she could witness the coronation of the man she had come to think of as her very dear friend. In fact, she would have liked that friendship to have become closer, more intimate, but she knew that Zan had certain obligations he had to meet - Lady Ava, and their forthcoming marriage notwithstanding. But every obstacle she could think of, between herself and Zan paled into the inconsequential, when compared to the one huge obstacle she knew about. One obstacle that King Zan, for all his studies would never suspect. One that a prophecy had spoken of thousands of years before she was born. Because Zan had survived the attack two years ago, she now knew it was true. Taysha had her own destiny, the fulfilment of which would result in the death of King Zan.
|posted on 2-Sep-2001 8:30:13 PM|
King Zan emerged from his chambers feeling fresh and alive. They had emerged from the wormhole earlier that morning, and the constant pain had finally ended. They would arrive home in less than a day, and Zan was looking forward to seeing his family again. Now, he just wanted to stretch his legs. Apart from the daily talk with Taysha, his frequent meetings with Rath and his daily wrangle with Denbers, Zan had spent the past two years interviewing the Kalithen rebels. He did not ask them who their ringleaders were, or who meticulously planned this whole thing, for he knew they would not answer. Instead, he asked them their grievances. He wanted to know exactly why some Kalithens were so violently opposed to Perdreian rule, while others accepted it.
Now these rebels were being loaded onto the large shuttles that had been waiting for them to emerge from the wormhole. Zan was reluctant to let them go, because he knew that once they left his care, Captain Kishan would finally get his way, he would simply get authorisation through Zan's mother. Zan also knew who his first victims would be, so Zan had pre-empted him. His footsteps took him to the assembly point in the landing bay, where he saw the Kalithens being lined up carefully. Each was in chains. He saw Lord Talbuth and Lady Taysha standing at the head of the first line, chained like their compatriots. Zan knew they would have wanted no preferential treatment, and were probably the first to be bound.
"There!" Zan pointed them out to Geltar.
Behind him, Geltar rather sullenly nodded, and walked down the steps from the platform, onto the landing bay. He was still sulking after he had discovered that Zan had not changed his shape for the journey, and had spent the last two years without a bodyguard. Zan suspected that part of his anger was because he had heard of his time spent with Taysha. The two captives were surprised at Geltar's appearance, and after their initial reluctance, finally agreed to follow him. Up on the platform, Zan ordered the removal of their chains. All the while, Taysha and Zan's eyes were locked together.
"Thank you, Zan," she said quietly, while Geltar was seeing to her father. "I did not think I would get the chance to say good bye to you. But why bother removing the bonds. You will only have to chain us up again. I intend to be treated like the others."
"Taysha," he sighed. "You need no chains. We are somehow bound together, you and I."
They shared a shy, tentative smile, their eyes holding each other for some time.
"So what is the meaning of this, your majesty?" Lord Talbuth asked. "Why have we been brought up here?"
"Forgive me, Lord Talbuth," Zan answered. "There has been a change of plans where you are concerned."
Both Taysha and her father looked suddenly concerned.
"No, its nothing to worry about," he said to them both, allaying their fears.
"Would you take Lord Talbuth to my chambers Geltar?" he asked his guard. "I'll be there shortly."
Together, Zan and Taysha watched the two men leave the platform, towards the elevators.
"What's going on, Zan?" Taysha asked when they had gone.
She did not look worried. Zan took her hand, and they both experienced the now familiar burst of some strange force race through their bodies. Suddenly aware of their exposed position, Zan led her through the doors that the other two had taken. He turned away from the corridor that led to the elevators, and led her the other way. They entered a small chamber, where two seats close together, faced a wall.
"What is this place Zan?" she asked.
"I only found out about this a few months ago," he said gently, "while I was searching through the Databanks. I was looking to see if there was a way to decrease the pressure that we experience. I found this instead."
They looked around the room, Taysha's eyes stopped on the two seats.
"I... uh, had them installed." he stumbled, his face blushing.
He led her to the seats, and they sat down together. Taysha's heart was pounding fiercely. This was the first time they had been alone since she had found out the truth about Zan.
"This is nice, Zan," she said softly, hardly believing she was about to complain about something she had been dreaming for months now, "but should we be alone in a dark room like this?"
Zan smiled at her, waving his hand across the wall. Instantly, the wall turned into a window, and below them was the splendour of the planet of Antar, suspended against a backdrop of stars.
"Oh Zan!" Taysha gasped. "It's beautiful."
"Not when compared to you, Taysha," he smiled, shyly.
Taysha looked back at him and blushed.
"Taysha," Zan whispered, "the reason I have taken you and your father from the landing bay, is that you are not going with the others."
She looked at him, slightly suspicious.
"I cannot protect you where they are going, Taysha," he said gently, taking her hand in his.
She felt so warm, so vibrant. Tears were glimmering in her lovely brown eyes.
"Instead, I am taking you to the palace, where I can assure your safety."
Taysha remembered her father's words. The prophecy is guiding our steps.
"No Zan," she cried. "You mustn't do that. Who knows what danger that would open you up to?"
"Taysha," he said. "I will face any danger as it arises. As long as I know you are safe. You must understand that what I offer you, is not just for you. It is for me, too. I promised that you would be with your mother. I have had your mother moved to the palace. You'll have a suite, in a quite corner, away from the main chambers. Your father will be allowed to stay with you also. But you will be under a kind of house arrest. If you wish to go... to visit... someone... you will have to have a guard accompany you."
"Thank you Zan," she said softly. "I wish... I wish."
She stopped as tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Taysha, I will be very busy... now that we're at home," he sighed, waving a hand. "There is much to do."
"I know, Zan," she answered sadly. "Will I see you at all?"
"Of course you will," he urged. "No matter what happens, Taysha, you will always be... special to me. But whatever it was that we had, its..."
"I know." She sobbed. "Its gone now, isn't it?"
Zan nodded, the tears in his own eyes obvious. This was as hard for him as it was for her.
"I would like to hold on to it," he whispered, "but my mother, she would never allow it. She would never allow me to... "
"Allow you to be seen with a common rebel?"
"I told you before, Taysha," he murmured, gently cupping her chin with his hand, "you are far too lovely to be a commoner."
"Zan?" she asked tearfully. "If you were free to choose? If you were just plain Jervad, and you could choose for your self, would you..."
She now understood how Rath had felt that time when he was still just Kandor, and he had proposed to her. Inside, her heart was twisted with worry. How would she feel when he told he would not choose her?
"You know I would, Taysha," he said softly. "I would choose you in a heartbeat."
Sobbing, she leaned towards him, hoping with all her heart that he would envelope her in his arms. She still remembered how she felt that night they went alone to the Observation Chamber. It seemed a lifetime ago. He did not disappoint her. He pulled her to him, held her tightly, and together, they watched Antar grow ever close. The cravings inside of her grew.
"I have something for you," he said with a catch in his voice.
He pulled out the box that he had found in the khiva, back on Earth. He opened the box to reveal the spirit stone. He pulled it out, and looped it over her head. Nothing that Zan had done in his life felt more right than giving her the pendant. She lifted it to examine it closely. She felt more complete now, like she was not complete without it.
"It's lovely Zan." She whispered with more tears flowing. "I will always wear it. Next to my skin. It will help me to think of you. Wherever did you get it?"
"I found it, on Earth," He said quietly, "the time I went down there."
"Was it with her?" she asked bitterly, but instantly bit her lip, feeling shamed.
There was no need for her to say that.
"We had better go before Geltar sends every guard on the ship out to find us," he smiled. "Thank you Taysha."
"For being you. For every smile. For every laugh. For helping me to become a better King."
"Hah!" she laughed, with a beautiful sparkle in her tear filled eyes. "So you think you're going to be a good King, do you?"
He smiled at her, and gave her shoulder a playful push. She captured his hand with hers, holding it against her.
"Thank you, Zan. For everything. I feel like you have saved my life."
But she wished he had not, for she knew that it surely meant the end of his.
The Flight Technicians carefully landed the great disc shaped craft on the waters of the Holy Sea, producing a great cloud of spray, mist and steam. On a cushion of air, the craft glided towards the distant landmass, with the mysterious great Pyramid Mountain and the specially built platform that would allow access to the ship when it came to a halt. Huge crowds had lined every available space, waiting to finally greet their new King. There were flags and banners everywhere. A small group of important looking people sat patiently in a special enclosure, while technicians attached mechanical arms to the ship, to steady it. Dressed in their finest uniforms, the technicians and crew filed from the ship, and stood in lines, facing the crowds. A hush fell over the crowd.
"Ready, your majesty?" Rath asked his friend, a smile finally on his face.
Zan looked at Rath, and took a deep breath.
"Rath, I know we had... differences, and I know how you feel about... everything," Zan stammered, "but out there, I have more loyal subjects than I know what to do with."
Rath went scarlet, remembering his antics of a few years ago.
"I also have enemies, Rath," he continued, "I need someone to help me, to watch my back for me. I need... a friend, Rath. Someone I can trust."
Rath stared at the floor.
"And I would like that friend to be you."
Rath looked back up, his face showing his gratitude.
"I will never let you down, your majesty," he replied with a bow, "I promise you that."
"And I hope, Rath," Zan smiled, "that is the last time you will bow to me in private."
"Come on, Zan," Rath laughed, slapping his friend on the back, "your public, and your family awaits."
Geltar stepped out first, and immediately snapped to attention to one side of the doorway. At this signal, the crew that had lined up along the platform copied him. Rath followed Geltar out onto the platform, and also stood to attention on the other side of the doorway. They were like bookends. Both men scanned the crowds, searching for trouble; each took their duties seriously. With a deep breath, King Zan stepped from the ship and into his kingdom. He left the old Zan behind, stepping out into the shoes of a new Zan. As one, the whole crowd dropped to one knee, and bowed their heads. The silence was overpowering. A strange image suddenly came into Zan's mind.
He was standing on the Pyramid, with Taysha, who was not Taysha, by his side. He knew that he loved her, and that she loved him. The voices said they were to be together, that together they would reunify what had been split. Below him, their fathers were advancing on the H'Manz, who were trying to flee their wrath by boarding a great space ship, much like the one he just climbed from. Together, he and Taysha had caused a shield to protect the fleeing H'Manz. They both felt their fathers' fury. When the ship departed, and the shield fell, their fathers climbed the mountain with their guards. Zan felt them as they bound him in chains, and promised him eternal suffering. Beside him he watched in horror as Taysha's father placed his hand on her shoulder and she dropped dead before him.
Then the vision was gone. His eyes quickly scanned the people below, at the end of the ramp. There was Taysha, looking up at him with a strange look of confusion in her eyes. She had seen the vision too. What did it mean?
"Rise loyal subjects." he said in a voice that echoed off the two mountains that framed the plain, of which one was the Pyramid upon which he was standing in his vision. "Rise that you may serve your King."
Immediately, music started up, and a hundred thousand voices took up the anthem to King Zan. As he descended down the platform, his eyes locked with those of Taysha, a smile on each of their lips. From their position in the special enclosure, a pair of eyes noticed King Zan's glance, and followed it to see where it led. The eyes narrowed with suspicion.
Zan sat in the large ornate chair that had been produced, and allowed the grand Royal robe to be laid across his shoulders. There would be no crown until his official coronation at the Cathedral of the Universe. His mother, the ex-Queen Layene approached him first, and on her knees before him, presented him with the royal ring. He slid this onto his finger, indicating his 'marriage' to Antar. Soon, he knew, another ring would go next to it. He resisted the temptation to look up at Ava.
"Rise mother," he whispered.
She complied, and Zan stood in front of her. Breaking every rule of protocol ever written, Zan embraced his mother.
"Oh, mother, I am so glad to be home," he laughed. "I have missed you. Though you are no longer Queen, in my heart you shall always be one."
Lady Layene, initially startled, smiled, and then took his hand and kissed the ring.
"And I have missed you my beloved son," she laughed back. "Welcome home."
One by one, the Barons, the Baronesses, the Dukes and the Duchesses, the Counts and the Countesses, both Perdreian and Kalithen, kissed his ring.
"Greetings, my beloved husband to be," Ava said, loudly, after she had kissed the ring. "Greatly I have missed you, and look forward to our wedding so that our two mighty peoples might at last be united in universal peace."
It was a strange speech for Ava to make, Zan thought. Somehow, she must have found out about Taysha. It was also a clever speech, one that required an answer. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Taysha looking down at the ground, seeming as though she wished it would open up and swallow her.
"Greetings beloved Ava," he announced, pulling her into an embrace.
It was expected of him, and he had missed her. He was just unsure what his feelings were, but he knew that he had to marry her.
Vilondra was next. As with his mother, Zan stood and embraced his sister, though the words they exchanged were quiet, meant for only each other.
"I have missed you Zan," she said, tears forming in her eyes. "I was so scared when I heard what happened. I wouldn't have survived if... if..."
"It's okay, Vilondra," he said soothingly. "I missed you too. And don't worry. Nothing will happen to me. And I promise that nothing will separate us again."
He glanced at Ava, now with her brother and father.
Vilondra started to laugh.
"Okay, little brother," she punched his arm, her eyes sparkling mischievously, looking over at Lady Taysha. "So tell me. Who is she and how did you meet her?"
The last person to greet Zan was a tall Kalithen, roughly the same age as Denbers. Zan did not recognise him.
"Greetings, my King," he said, in a carefully neutral tone. "We have not met before, for I started to work for your father in the days after your departure. I was one of his advisors. I would like to think that I had become his most trusted."
Zan nodded for him to continue, but something caught his eye. Behind the advisor, two guards were leading Lord Talbuth and Lady Taysha to a secure transport vehicle for their journey to the palace. She cast up a last forlorn glance at Zan, but her eyes widened in shock, and she hurried inside the vehicle. What had she seen, he wondered as the man before him pleaded for his job. Zan capitulated, and allowed him to retain his position. He looped his arm into Vilondra's, and walked to the Royal transport.
"Who was that Kalithen I was talking to just now, Vilondra?" he asked.
"He was the only advisor father trusted in the end, Zan," told him. "He was even injured in the attack that... that... you know."
Zan nodded, sympathetically. After a last, sad glance at the space ship, he climbed in to his transport with a heavy sigh.
"He's been so very helpful in your absence, helping us to keep things going," Vilondra continued, as she sat down. "His name's K'Var."
There was one more reunion when Zan finally returned to his father's... no, his... palace. As he entered through the large door, held open by some members of the ceremonial guard, Zan saw the woman who had practically raised him, Nanny Pleyna. She looked at him a little uncertainly, for her 'little man' was now a King. Zan looked at her with an amused smile.
"Oh, come here, Nanny!" he beamed. "Come and give me a hug."
The elderly women embraced Zan, and returned his smile.
"Hello, little one," she laughed. "It will be good to have you around again. The palace has been empty without you."
"Well, for better or worse, I am back now. Though you may well soon be sick of the sight of me."
"Well, your majesty?" she asked. "When can I expect to return to work, and look after the children of the child I raised?"
Her laugh rang through the chamber, at which Zan gave her a mock punch on the arm.
"We shall see, Nanny," he replied, a little off. Everyone noticed the sudden change in Zan's mood. "We shall see."
With his return to Antar, and to the Royal Palace in the Perdreian capital city of D'Erra, King Zan would have preferred it if things had started to settle down. But that was not the case. The murder of his father had not been solved, and naturally, the Kalithens were the main suspects. The circumstances were such that it was suspected that another planet was involved, and each had accused the others of somehow colluding with the rebels in an attempt to de-stabilise their own planet, and the whole alliance. The threat of all out war was ever present as each suspected the other of plotting to seize the throne for themselves. Even as he listened to K'Var as he told him of what he had learned, Zan wished Taysha were there with him.
With the forth-coming coronation, the leaders of all five planets would be gathered together in one room. Zan could not afford to miss the opportunity to talk to them all, to try and get these grievances out in the open where they might be discussed, and remedied. Zan did not want a situation where they would be able to put numbers onto the end of the names of their wars. He sadly thought of Claudia White, and wondered how she was doing. Had their war ended yet? As Zan walked through the corridors, heading for his chambers after his latest meeting with his generals, his advisors, his chamberlain, and his newly appointed second in command, Lord Rath, he yearned for the freer days on board the ship, complete with the pain.
Zan had been home for three weeks now, and he had not seen Taysha in that time. He missed her terribly. It was all the more unbearable, because he had been having these strange feelings lately. It was almost as though he sensed her presence. She was so close, but with everything going on around him, and with Ava's almost continuous presence, she might as well be back on Earth with Claudia White. What would they have made of each other, Claudia and Taysha, he wondered, indicating just how hard it was for him to keep his mind on the important issues.
"Good evening, Zan my beloved," Ava greeted him on his arrival.
"Ava," he smiled, folding her into his embrace as she rose from her seated position. "Have you had a pleasant evening?"
Each night, she would wait for him in his chamber, where Zan would talk about the days events, and how the meetings were going, while Ava, hardly listening, told him what a wonderful leader he was.
"Everyone is pointing at Larek," he sighed. "I'm trying to get them to forget the past, and to help plan the future, and all they want to do is destroy the friendship we have. Petty jealousy!"
"I am sure you will sort it out, Zan," Ava said with a smile. "Larek would never betray you. Everybody loves you."
Zan smiled at her. Sometimes, her positive outlook made his teeth ache, but lately, it soothed him.
"When we are married, Zan," she smiled at him, "you will not spend so long at these meetings, will you?"
It seemed more like a command than a question.
After his talk with Ava, where he had listened to her complain of almost every little thing that she had endured these past four years, he had sought out his sister. They had a lot of catching up to do, and had so far not been able to spend any time together. He had noticed immediately, that her narcissism had become more extreme in his absence, and he wanted to tease her about it. She wore extravagant clothing, covered in crystals mined from distant mountains. He had heard she spent her time with her dressmakers, instead of her tutors.
"She drove me crazy, Zan," Vilondra laughed, telling him of Ava and her incessant worrying. "She was constantly asking me if I could sense you."
Her voice broke, and the tears came to her eyes."
"But I couldn't, Zan," she sobbed. "I couldn't sense you, and I was so afraid."
She buried her face into his shoulder.
"So afraid," she whispered.
"But I'm safe now, Vilondra," he assured her. "I was always safe. While it was all happening, I wasn't even on the ship."
"So where were you? Some young woman's chamber? The Lady Taysha, perhaps?" she asked with an impish smile, wiping away the tears. "Or did you persuade a flight technician to take you for a spin around the ship?"
"Sort of," he laughed, and then his face brightened up. "I went down there, Vilondra. To the planet, I mean, Earth. And it was beautiful."
He told her about his adventure that he and Geltar had, but remembering the voice, he kept to his story that Borad had died. He told her of Claudia, and of the ruins, but he did not tell her about the pendant. Somehow, he felt that Vilondra might have reacted badly to the fact he had given it to Taysha and not to her. Vilondra listened to him intently.
"I would love for you to see it, Vilondra," he whispered.
"Ok, Zan," she suddenly laughed. "Now tell me all about Lady Taysha. Who is she, and where does she come from? And does Ava know about her?"
Zan told her all about Taysha. He told her of their first unfortunate meeting, and how they met again later that day with Zan giving a fictitious name. He explained their growing friendship, and her problem she had with Zan, and how he was now looking after her in the quiet wing of the palace. Vilondra was looking at him sympathetically, while he told her of his visions, his dreams, and the voice in his head. She then looked a little oddly at him, which made him feel strange, foolish almost. He suddenly feared that Vilondra might start laughing at him.
"Vilondra?" he asked quietly. "Will you keep all this a secret? Please? For me?"
"Of course Zan," she said softly, placing her hand on his.
They linked arms, and together, they walked back the palace.
"Hail King Zan!" the crowded hall chanted at the end of the ceremony, officially crowning Zan as the King of Antar and the Five Planets. He sat at the head of a cluster of five ornate thrones, forming a 'V' shape, with the main throne at its apex, furthest from the seated dignitaries invited from all five planets. At the back of the gathering, seated in a distant corner, Taysha sat smiling as she watched the man she held in her heart coming into his birthright. She was so happy for him right now; there would be time for her to worry later.
Naturally, she was not invited to the reception held in the grounds of the palace afterwards. Instead, Taysha sat on the small balcony of her private quarters, and looked on from a distance. She watched as one by one, the leaders of the other planets, Hanar, Sero, Kathana and Larek approached him, engaging Zan in a private conversation. She smiled when she saw Geltar standing close by, constantly vigilant. She could almost sense Zan's joy when he spoke to Larek, his oldest friend, and it became obvious that they were not talking politics. Then Rath joined them, and from the way Zan was standing, she knew they were teasing him. But through it all, she felt saddened by the fact that constantly at his side, was the lovely Lady Ava. And he seemed so in love with her.
"Excuse me, my Lady," her maidservant, supplied by Zan, interrupted, when the reception was winding down. "You have a visitor."
Lady Taysha never had visitors. A momentary hope rose that Zan perhaps had called, but that sank when she saw Denbers handing something to him, still by the great pavilion.
"Do you know who it is?" she asked curiously.
"Yes my Lady," the woman answered. "It is the Princess Vilondra."
Taysha rose with a start. Why had Zan's sister come to see her? Had she heard of her relationship with Zan? Had she come to warn her off? Nervously, she approached the door.
"May I help you, your highness?" she asked curtseying low before her.
"Yes," Vilondra replied loftily. "You may walk with me, Lady Taysha. I wish to talk."
"Yes my lady," Taysha nodded, feeling slightly in awe of the fabulously dressed Princess.
Princess Vilondra was strange to Taysha. She behaved so much like the princess she was, but more so. It was as if she was afraid that no one would believe her to be one unless she emphasised this, as though the dresses and jewels were needed to remind people of that fact. Zan, rather, King Zan, was completely different. He seemed to prefer it when people forgot he was a King. She knew for a fact that he liked it when she treated him the same way she had treated Jervad. It was so hard to believe that these two were siblings. She smiled at the thought. She knew how close they were.
"Do you find something amusing, Lady Taysha?" Vilondra asked, looking down her nose at the young woman.
"No my lady," she answered as Princess Vilondra led her towards the decorative fountains.
"So," Vilondra said as they walked amongst the fountains of multi-coloured waters that seemed to make a kind of music. "You are the young lady who has captured my brother's heart."
Taysha was startled. She did not know what to say. Was this some kind of trap? Had Zan told her this?
"I'm flattered that you think so, my lady," she answered neutrally, "but all the world knows that it is the lovely Lady Ava that holds his heart."
Vilondra's silvery peal of laughter added to the music of the fountains.
"He's told me everything that happened, Lady Taysha. You should know that my brother and I keep no secrets from each other," she smiled. "Well, almost no secrets."
Taysha did not know what to say, so she said nothing.
"Now," Vilondra continued, linking her arm in Taysha's. "No more of this 'my lady' stuff, and tell me what you think of my brother."
Taysha could not help it, but she could not let her guard down. No matter how kindly Vilondra treated her, and she did treat her very kindly, Taysha could not open up to her. She told her side of the story of their meetings, but made sure that she toned down her own feelings for Zan. If Vilondra had reported back to Zan how this meeting had gone, she would have to say that Taysha was only marginally fond of him. The truth was, of course, that Taysha had fallen completely in love with him. The thought of her duplicity saddened Taysha, and she stared into a fountain, watching the water dance. She hoped Vilondra did not report this to Zan, but then she did say they had no secrets. Perhaps she should tell Vilondra the truth.
"My Lady, I...." she started, but Vilondra had gone. Taysha was alone.
"Vilondra?" a call came from behind her. "Come on Vilondra, where are you?"
The voice was very familiar to Taysha. It was a voice that caused her heart rate to increase, a voice she held so dearly. It was the voice of King Zan.
"Taysha?" he called with surprise, when he came around the fountain and saw her sitting there. "Taysha? What are you doing here?"
"I... I'm sorry Zan," she stammered, feeling suddenly foolish. "I wasn't aware that I wasn't allowed... out here, I... I..."
"No, no," Zan called to her soothingly, "It's okay... really. It's just that I was expecting Vilondra. She gave me this note."
Zan held up a small foil. It was what she had seen Denbers pass to him.
"Oh," she said slowly, "Vilondra brought me out here, to talk."
Zan smiled, knowing full well that his sister had arranged this meeting, so they could be together, if only briefly. Thank you sis, he thought.
"How are you, Taysha?" he asked with a genuine smile of pleasure, sitting next to her. "Is everything to your satisfaction?"
"Yes, it is," she answered, returning his smile. "The rooms are more than adequate, and we have been treated so well. Thank you."
"I am glad," he whispered.
Why did he feel so awkward? It had been a long time since they had last talked; it was almost as if he had forgotten how.
"I saw you today," she looked up suddenly, beaming. "You looked quite grand."
"Were you at the Cathedral?" he asked, surprised.
"Yes," she smiled shyly. "And I watched the reception from my balcony. I saw you had a chance to talk to Larek."
She had been watching him? Inside, his heart smiled.
"For a while, we talked of old times," he laughed, but then his face fell. "And then duty called."
"As long as you enjoyed your day, Zan," she smiled sadly.
"Taysha, I really wish I could be someone ordinary. Then maybe I could..."
"No Zan," she stopped him. "Can't you see how special you are? If you had been ordinary, then maybe we would never have met. I would rather have you in my life, like this, than not in my life at all."
Zan felt humbled. Together, they walked among the fountains, and talked of the last few days. Occasionally, their hands would brush, sending bolts of electricity through their arms. As they frequently looked into each other's eyes, they had to keep reminding themselves that they could not give in to their feelings. As Zan led Taysha back to the palace, neither saw the two pairs of eyes watching their every move, from different ends of the gardens.
The days that followed his coronation had been a strange time for Zan. After his quiet discussions with the other leaders, he had felt hopeful that at last, the suspicion and mistrust had been left behind. He actually felt optimistic that the plans he would start to lay would bring a lasting peace, though he knew there would be some resistance. And then there was the meeting with Taysha that his sister had engineered. Although the meeting had been strained, the feelings that always surfaced in her presence somehow gave him strength for the difficult task ahead.
Today, however, the suspicions and the hatred that had marred his earlier meetings had re-surfaced, and if it was at all possible, had seemed stronger. Zan had grown agitated with them, and had actually shown some anger. He felt that he had let himself down, although from their reaction, he guessed that the others were used to this. King Xandor had obviously lost his temper a lot. At his shoulder, his father's trusted advisor, K'Var had kept him constantly updated with a stream of information.
Zan could see why K'Var had quickly attained his position in the four years that Zan had been away. He seemed to know everything. He kept Zan informed as to who had been discussing what with whom, and even occasionally suggesting what action to take. Zan could feel the frustration of the other leaders, including Servetrius rising steadily as he countered their suggestions and requests. Zan had thought that the frustration was with him, but K'Var was convinced that this was otherwise. K'Var said that he was successfully thwarting their machinations.
The days slowly crept by, and they were getting nowhere. Tomorrow, the final day of the impromptu summit, Zan would make his announcements. The leaders would then return to their respective worlds and implement the new laws that Zan would decree. He was feeling decidedly nervous. Earlier that day, his mother had been pressing him to announce the date of his wedding with Ava, as had K'Var. K'Var had been strangely insistent, warning Zan that there were factions of Perdreians growing increasingly alarmed at his sense of reluctance. Some feared that he was being influenced against his marriage.
He had met with Vilondra, who seemed out of sorts. She was complaining that she had been pushed into a sort of backwater, and was feeling very alone.
"It's OK for you, Zan," she had moaned "You have two people who care for you. Taysha and Ava. I have none."
It had made Zan positive that at least one of his decisions was correct.
As was her custom, Ava had been waiting for Zan in his chamber upon his return from his latest meeting, this time with Rath. Rath had been trying, against K'Var's advice, to find any of the leaders of the Perdreian factions growing anxious at Zan's continuing bachelor status. He had reported that he had found no such factions, and that the general mood was of confidence that the wedding would soon take place. Ava had been her usual self, assuring Zan that whatever he decided upon was fine with her. She too brought up the wedding, and for the first time ever, warned that she only had so much patience. The evening ended with an invitation that Zan dine with her at her chamber the next evening, where she would have a surprise for him.
"Princess Vilondra?" a voice called from among the fountains.
Vilondra sat by the largest fountain, her favourite. She often walked here when she felt alone. She would have liked some company this evening, but both Zan and Ava had retired early, and Zan's little playmate Taysha was nowhere to be found. She looked up to the source of the call, and saw her father's, now her brother's advisor, K'Var. During the dark days after her father's death, and when her brother was missing, presumed dead, he had been a good friend to Vilondra, a tower of strength. Had things been different, she might have been tempted to look beyond the fact he was Kalithen, and consider him a potential suitor.
"K'Var!" she answered. "I'm over here."
K'Var approached her wearily, seeming as though he had the weight of all five planets on his shoulders. The instant he saw her own sadness, he was suddenly filled with concern for her.
"My Lady," he stated sitting next to her and taking her hand in his. "Whatever is the matter?"
"I'm lonely, K'Var," she sighed. "Zan is so busy these days, he has little time for me."
"Poor little princess," he gently teased with a smile. "Talk with me then."
And so they talked. K'Var was a very attentive friend. He sat with Vilondra listening patiently, offering sympathetic comments where they were required, and remaining silent where they were not.
"And most of all," she sighed, "Every one is so tied up with marrying Zan off to Ava, they forget that I might like to consider marriage myself. But no one pays attention to me. No one notices."
"You are wrong, Princess Vilondra," K'Var sighed hopelessly. "I have noticed you. From the day I first saw you, wearing that lilac coloured dress, I...."
He reached out a hand, and gently touched her cheek. Vilondra closed her eyes, and leaned into the touch.
"Forgive me, my lady!" K'Var suddenly stammered, withdrawing his hand. "I forget myself."
Vilondra looked at K'Var sympathetically, and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"It's all right, K'Var," she whispered softly. "Sometimes I have... I mean sometimes I.... It's all right, I understand."
There was a silent moment as they gazed into each other's eyes. Finally, Vilondra looked away.
"Forgive me K'Var," she whispered softly. "You were looking for me for some reason other than to listen to my complaining. Now, you listened to me, so I shall listen to you."
"It is a delicate matter, my lady," he began. "And one I felt I should discuss with you before I took this any further."
"Oh?" Vilondra stated, wondering what she would be able to help with that would cause K'Var difficulty.
"It concerns your brother," he continued.
He had her full attention now.
"You know him better than any one else," he stated. "Has he seemed, I don't know, different?"
"Different?" she asked. "Different how?"
"You are aware that Zan did not change his shape for the journey home?"
"Yes, I had heard that."
"My lady," he started, but seemed as though what he had to say was difficult. "We do not know how such a journey might affect Perdreians. He is the first to try it. I have been hearing things from the other delegates, how Zan seems so unlike the Zan they knew. Even Larek, his oldest friend is concerned. Have you noticed any thing... strange... about his behaviour?"
Vilondra remembered his conversation with her the other evening, when he talked of visions and voices.
"Well..." she started. "Things have been a little... intense for him."
"But things are so dangerous, Vilondra," he said. "A wrong word here could start a war. We need our leader to be in control. We do not need a loose canon."
"Well... I..." Vilondra did not know what to say. This was her brother they were talking about.
"Princess Vilondra," he urged, making sure that he put his point across, "before I became involved in politics, I was a Medical Technician. And I have worked in all of the fields. I worked extensively in psychiatry. I believe that the experiences that King Zan has suffered, your father's death, the own failed attempt on his life, his time on that wretched planet, and the journey home, I believe it has... unhinged... him."
"So what is it you are saying?"
"Princess Vilondra," he said formally. "We must monitor the situation. If the need arises, we may have to take steps. You, my Lady, may have to take the throne from him. For the good of Antar and the Five planets."
"Lord Rath," a voice called out, as Rath emerged from a meeting with some contacts he had made in a residential area of the city.
Lord Rath turned to look into the eyes of a very attractive young Kalithen.
"Lord Rath, might I have a word with you? In private?" she asked when she had his attention.
Rath looked at his transport vehicle, his eyes questioning.
"I would prefer it if we used mine," she responded, a little hesitatingly.
Rath checked the vehicle, making sure that he was not going to be involved in some kind of trap, and entered the vehicle with the girl.
"Lord Rath," she started. "My name is Siska. I am a representative of a group of Kalithens who are opposed to the rule of the Royal Perdreians."
"You do realise I could arrest you for this."
"Of course, Lord Rath. That is your duty. But then you will not find out what it is I have to say."
"We have ways of extracting that information," he replied.
"You would have no success, Lord Rath. Besides, are you so enamoured of the Perdreian rule that you willing adopt their cruel methods?"
"I have seen the results of Kalithen interrogation Siska," he informed her. "There is not much to choose between them."
"The group I represent abhor such acts. We want all to join in the bounty that we are reaping, as a result of the years of hard work. Perhaps with unity we can become even more prosperous."
"Wait," she stated. "This bounty is as a result of King Xandor's reign. I thought you opposed Perdreian rule."
"What we would like, is to abolish the Royalty. We want to see a leader selected from among the people, with representatives from each race, ensuring all are cared for."
"Don't you think Zan might eventually lead us down this path?"
"Perhaps, if he were to reign that long."
"So you are threatening to kill him?"
"No. It is not we who plan his murder, but another."
"We do not know. What we do know is that he plans to remove Zan, marry the reincarnation of the Princess Isozilde, and claim the throne of Antar under the auspices of Prophecy."
"So you have listened to the fairy tales too?"
"This is no fairy tale, my lord," she frowned. "Do you not know who the reincarnation of Isozilde is?"
"Your sister, Lady Ava."
"So what is it you want of me?"
"Lord Rath, if the nameless one takes the throne, and proclaims himself Prince Traznor reborn, united with Princess Isozilde reborn, then he will pretty much have complete and total power. From what we have heard of this man, we will enter a period of such darkness, that our planet will probably die."
"You still do not say what you want of me."
"Seize the throne Lord Rath. Depose King Zan, and claim the throne of Antar in the name of Kalitha. All of Kalitha will unite behind you, as well as many Perdreians. You can forbid Ava to marry whoever it is that poses as Traznor."
"For what you say to be true, this traitor would have to be..." Rath narrowed his eyes "Perdreian."
Zan was restless that night. He could sense that something big was going to happen, something that he would be powerless to prevent. He had spent many of his restless nights regurgitating the information he had about everything he could think of. Sometimes, he felt that he had too much information. He knew that he had missed something, but as he considered each individual with a part to play, he could not see what the global picture was. Just what was being planned? Zan was no nearer to the truth now than when he started, two years ago. He knew that it had something to do with Prince Traznor, and Princess Isozilde. He knew that Ava was considered to be Isozilde, and had the corroborative evidence to back this up. He also knew that his father had claimed the he, Zan, was Prince Traznor. But there was no corroborative evidence, other than his visions. But was that correct? Was he Prince Traznor? Had he done enough? Had he checked everything? Tomorrow was the day he would announce his new laws. Tomorrow was the day their future would begin, so why did he feel that this was a beginning... of the end?
There was a soft knocking at his door, so Zan rose, and went to answer. He was quite surprised to see Nanny Pleyna standing there, looking quite worried.
"Nanny!" Zan said, shocked to see her there at this hour. "Can I help you?"
She looked up at him, a little uncertain. She clearly had something on her mind.
"I promised him I would never tell," she said quietly.
"Promised who?" asked Zan. "Tell what?"
"I helped cover it up, and I gave him my word. I kept it too. I never told anyone."
"Nanny, you're not making a lot of sense here. Have you come to tell me something?"
"No, no. I promised him, you see," she answered. She looked as confused as she sounded. "I even helped her look after him. She promised too. She kept her promise as well. We both did."
Zan lead the confused old woman over to his bed, and sat her on the edge of it.
"Nanny, I think you had better tell me everything, from the beginning."
As Zan returned from Nanny Pleyna's own chambers, where he had returned her too, he considered all that he had learned that night. It was so much to take in, and how would it affect what he already knew? Certainly there would be ramifications, but what were they? He would have to talk to Nanny Pleyna again, to find out more, but for now, it would have to wait. At least until after tomorrow. Now, however, there was another problem. The voices that had screamed in rejection of his marriage to Ava now called him. It was unlike the voice he heard on Earth, which was a just a single voice. These voices were multitudinous.
"Come, ... Come." they urged in a sibilant whisper.
Zan followed the voices and soon found himself in the large throne room, standing behind the great throne at the apex of the V shape of five seats. The wall appeared solid, but he dimly recalled a door appearing when he had been here with his father, all those years ago. Without knowing why, Zan waved his hand across the wall, and the shape of a silver handprint appeared. Zan placed his hand in the imprint, and a doorway appeared, and opened.
The door closed, and disappeared when Zan stepped through it. He found himself in the room his father had called the Granolith Chamber. It was a chamber of crystal, approximately five metres across, and three metres high. A dark inverted cone dominated the chamber, two and a half metres high, suspended over a white crystal cone half a meter high. He sensed its enormous power. He remembered the conversation with Lord Talbuth, about a weapon of great power. He had wondered then if it had referred to the Granolith. Now, in its presence, he knew that it had. Zan felt a kind of awareness, almost as if it were... alive! There was a kind of gentle fluttering against his mind.
"What... Who ... are you?" he whispered with a sense of awe.
"We are the C'Laronolth," it, no... they stated simply.
Zan played with the strange word in his mind. C'Laronolth, Granolith. Yes, he could see it.
"What do you require of me?" he asked, for surely it was... they... who had called him here. "Why did you summon me?"
"It has begun," they stated simply.
Whatever it was that Zan had been trying to uncover for so long now, was in motion. The C'Laronolth was... were warning him, but he still had no idea what was going on.
"What has begun?" he demanded.
"Betrayal!" they announced.
"What can I do?" he asked, a feeling of dread descending upon him.
"Forgive," the voices sighed.
Zan stood before the council, and nervously shuffled his notes. He had been quite shaken by the events of the previous night, and of that morning. His mother had awakened him early with the sad news that Nanny Pleyna had died during the night. Zan was quite upset by the news, for in his way, he had loved the old woman. So, for his old Nanny, he focused on the task ahead. He was determined to get his message across. He had carefully studied the situation on his home planet, and had come to recognise the flaws that were causing the problems. Despite their advanced technology, they were no better than the peoples of the Earth, in fact, in some ways, they were worse. He saw in their own future, the same years of conflict and strife that the Earth had suffered. He wondered if Claudia White would approve of his actions. With his heart pounding in his throat, he began. He started by explaining his feelings for the situation among the peoples in his care, and how he wanted a to make things better for all the peoples of Antar. He told them of the things he had discovered on Earth.
"Firstly," he announced, "from this day forth, the peoples of the Tanbo-ens are not to be considered as subservient to either the Perdreians or to the Kalithens, or even the races of the other four planets. All races are to be considered as equals, and are to be treated as such. The practice of slavery is to be abolished."
There were murmurs around the council members. They did not like the sound of this.
"Secondly, as equals, all members of all races are to be accepted, in equal measures, into the universities of Antar and the Five Planets. Thirdly, the money spent in our Medical Research facilities is to be split proportionately, to ensure that advances in medicine occurs for all races, and not just the Perdreians and the Kalithens."
The murmurs of dissent were growing louder, but Zan was determined to get his message across. He raised his voice so he would be heard.
"Fourth. All races will be able to attain all ranks within all services of Antar and the Five Planets. It will be possible for a Tanbo-en, for instance, to attain the rank of Flight Commodore of a space ship.
"Fifth," he continued, shouting over the protests that were rising, "these positions in this council are no longer to be considered family heirlooms, passed from father to son. Instead, the councillors are to be elected by the people of the region they represent. There will no longer be any gender restrictions."
There was uproar in the Council Chamber now, but Zan stood his ground and waited for order.
"Sixth," he continued. "Restriction on Religion will be removed. No more will we say what choice a person must make. Each may choose for themselves, so long as that religion does not seek to break the laws of Antar and the Five Planets. If someone wishes to become a follower of the Souls of the Universe, he or she may do so in the knowledge that they will suffer no discrimination, as long as they obey the Law."
The uproar that followed was not as loud as before, but it still occurred. Again, Zan waited it out.
"Now," he announced, "after giving you the hard lessons we must learn to prevent the problems that ravage the planet that we have been studying since we accidentally found it a hundred years ago, from occurring on this one, I have some more joyous news. After consulting my advisor, and my mother, I have pleasure in announcing that my much awaited marriage to the Lady Ava, daughter to Lord Servetrius of Kalitha will take place in three months time, assuming that she will have me."
The light laughter helped to ease the situation.
"Also, in a bid to ensure the unity of our two families, and peoples, I have pleasure in announcing the betrothal of my sister, the Princess Vilondra, to my second in command, Lord Rath, son of Lord Servetrius of Kalitha."
"Zan! Zan!" Larek called, as he hurried through the corridors towards his chambers.
He needed to prepare himself for his evening meal with Ava. By now, she would have heard the news, and the meal would now be a celebration.
"Yes Larek?" Zan stopped for him, with a courteous bow. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm here as a friend, Zan. Not as a leader," he said when he caught up with him. "That was quite a... surprise in there."
"It has to be done Larek. A storm is coming, and we must prepare," Zan answered.
"You know of the rumours about you? That you have become mentally unstable?"
"I've heard them, Larek," he laughed. "And I assure you they are false."
"Zan, have you discussed these plans with anyone? With your advisors? I worry that you are putting your trust in the wrong people."
Zan looked at his friend carefully.
"Larek, we have been friends a long time, We grew up together, attending the same schools. I even helped you get the courage to ask your wife to marry you," Zan laughed. "You trusted me back then. Please put your trust in me again. I am trying to make things right."
"I do trust you, Zan," he replied, placing his hand on Zan's shoulder. "But I think you might be trying too hard. These ideas of yours, I can see how they will make things better. I can see that it will create a better world for all of you, for us, eventually. But Zan, changes take time, in all things. You are trying to do too much, too soon. You should consolidate your position first."
Larek looked at Zan carefully.
"You taught me that, Zan. You and that daft book by some ancient Earthling General. What was his name again?"
"Sun Tzu," replied Zan. "But I must make the changes."
"I can see that, Zan, I do. But..." he paused. "Just watch your back, Zan. I think someone close to you is plotting against you."
"Your guests have arrived, your majesty," Denbers advised him while he prepared for Ava's meal.
"Thank you, Denbers," he replied. "Show them to my study, and then you may leave."
"Yes sire," he bowed with a worried frown.
Finally dressed, Zan went through to his study, where two men stood, and bowed. He had called them together, because the voices had been warning him that something was going to happen. He guessed that the puppet master was starting to pull his strings. It never hurt to plan ahead.
"Please be seated, gentlemen," he said informally when he entered the room. "You two are the only ones outside my family that I trust enough with this information. Firstly, Geltar, my personal bodyguard, a man I trust above almost everyone because he risked his life to save mine."
"And dear old Glister. Not only is he the man who taught how to study, he is the foremost scholar on this planet, and is knowledgeable in the fields of bio-genetics, and of ancient artefacts. Two skills I believe we may need if we are to survive the dark storm that approaches."
Zan paused, allowing the two men to absorb the information.
"Now listen carefully, gentlemen, and no one outside this room is to know anything of what we discuss, until the correct time."
"Glister!" Zan called to his old tutor as the two men started to leave his chambers, their minds spinning with what they had discussed. "Can you stay a moment?"
"A pleasure, sire," he answered, stopping and returning to Zan's side. "What can I do for you?"
"Glister," he sighed. "Nanny Pleyna came to me last night, with some disturbing news."
"Sire?" the tutor asked.
"How much of the situation at court were you aware of, during the years before my birth?"
"What did she tell you, Zan?" he asked with a worried frown.
"She told me that when my father was young, my age, he raped one of the handmaidens. She said that the woman fell pregnant, and that she gave birth to a son. She told me how she helped cover everything up, and how she helped look after the girl, and her son."
"He paid the young woman handsomely, Sire, they wanted for nothing," Glister said quietly. "Although I do not truly know if the girl was raped or not, I do know that she was quite attracted to your father, always flirting with him. But she did indeed give birth to a son, and they moved to the outskirts of the city."
"Glister, I think he is the Puppet Master. I think it was he who had my father murdered. It is he who is planning to seize the throne from me. I think this might be about revenge."
"No, sire," Glister stated, shaking his head. "That is quite wrong. Whoever is pulling the strings, it is not your half brother."
"And why do you say that with such confidence?"
"Your half brother was ever a sickly youth, my lord. He was not very strong, and his genetic deficiencies were not able to be corrected."
"I fail to see how this would prevent..."
"Sire," Glister interrupted, "he died in hospital, a few months before you were born."
"Why did you do it, Zan?" Rath demanded, intercepting Zan on his way to Ava's dinner.
"Do what?" Zan asked, a little cagily.
"Betroth me to Vilondra like that. Did you consult her about this at all?" he asked, angrily. "Because I know that you certainly did not consult me!"
"Don't you like Vilondra?" Zan asked, with a sense of déjà vu.
"Stop trying to put this on me, Zan!" Rath argued. "You should have discussed this me, with her. You shouldn't do this!"
"I'm sorry Rath, but I need to make sure that..."
"Look, Zan. I'll do it, okay? I'll marry Vilondra like you want me to. I'll do it because you want me to. But listen, Zan. You asked me to be your friend, right? Well friendship is a two way street. I don't care why you made that decision, and I don't care how good, or bad a decision it is. Next time, at least talk to me about it first, or I won't back you up."
Zan finally arrived at Ava's chamber at the time she had specified. As he had predicted, Ava was ecstatic over his announcement in the council earlier that day, and threw herself into his arms. Carefully extricating himself from her embrace, he held her back and laughed at the joy on her face. As they sat down to dine, she was babbling incessantly about the extravagant preparations that she had already set in motion.
"Of course," she smiled, "It was a good thing that I had chosen a new hand maid the other day. I'll be able to task her with much of the running around for me. She can take care of all the little things, and assist me with the large ones."
"Another new hand maid, Ava?" Zan asked with a smile. "How many is it that you have you had now?"
Ava was well known for the number of handmaids she got through. It was considered an insult for an untitled woman to turn down an invitation to become a handmaid from one as high as Ava. The post had a minimum service of six months, and could be extended if the both parties were happy. Lady Layene had kept the same handmaid since she turned sixteen, and was first able to appoint one. No handmaid of Ava's ever wanted to remain with her, seeking to leave at her first opportunity.
"Yes Zan," she smiled. "And that is my surprise."
Ava lifted a small silver bell, and shook it.
Taysha entered the room, and gave Ava a little curtsy. Although she would not look at Zan, he could sense her humiliation from where he sat.
"Taysha," Ava said, neutrally, "you may greet his Majesty."
"Good evening, your Majesty," she said, giving Zan another curtsy.
"What game is this Ava?" Zan snapped, glaring angrily at his future wife.
"Well, my beloved husband to be," Ava replied frostily. "As we are to be married now, I had better keep your little plaything on a tight leash. I won't have to worry about any secret meetings by the fountains then, will I?"
Zan groaned inwardly. He knew that this would be hard on him, and probably even harder on Taysha. Being so close to one another, yet unable to show even the slightest affection. Could things get any worse?
|posted on 2-Sep-2001 8:32:08 PM|
Vilondra was furious. How could her brother, someone she not only loved dearly, but respected and admired, do such a thing to her? Betrothed to Rath! Because of his friendship with Zan, Rath had become a friend to her also. The thought of marrying him was not as unpleasant as she made out, but it was not this that had upset her so. It was the fact that Zan had not discussed this with her at all.
"Princess Vilondra?" a voice asked at her door.
It was K'Var. He had heard about her mood and had come to check on her.
"Come in, K'Var," she snapped.
K'Var entered the room, and gave her a formal bow.
"Are you all right?" he asked gently.
"How can you ask that?" she snapped. "You heard as well as I what that buffoon of a brother has done to me."
"You refer, I take it, to Prince Zan's decree betrothing you to his second in command?"
"You take it correct K'Var."
"I tried to reason with him, my lady," he sighed. "I told him you would not be pleased. But he and Lord Rath sat there grinning at me, and told me to mind my own business."
"And now I'm stuck, because he is my guardian, I am not free to make my own choice."
K'Var stopped and looked towards the door.
"Princess Vilondra," he said quietly. "There is a way out of this."
"Oh?" she asked eagerly. "How?"
"Do you remember the other evening, when we spoke about our fears for his mental health?"
"I seem to recall they were your fears, K'Var."
"Nevertheless, can you not see how I am right? Can you not see that these latest laws are unpopular, and that he is making everyone angry? Just today, his personal bodyguard has resigned his posts. I also believe his Chamberlain has quit, I can find no trace of him in the city. They are furious at his rule."
"What are you saying, K'Var? Is Zan in some kind of danger?"
"I fear so, my lady," he replied, sadly. "All around I hear rumours of plots, and intrigue. I fear that any day now, there might be an attempt on his life."
"What can we do, K'Var?"
K'Var sat down, and leaned towards Vilondra.
"About the potential threat to Zan? In the short term, we must give the people a diversion. Something to distract them, and make them laugh at Zan, while we prepare something to ease the situation in the long term."
"And what is that, pray tell?"
"The diversion could be some minor rebellion against his most insignificant decree. Your betrothal. You should be seen out every night, on the arm of some noble. Show the people that you disapprove of Zan's decree."
"I don't know many nobles that I would feel comfortable enough with to do that," she sighed.
"My Lady," he whispered earnestly, "I would be honoured if you might consider me for the task."
"What a good idea!" Vilondra laughed.
"As to the long term," he said slowly, "can you be in any doubt as to your brother's mental health?"
"I don't know, K'Var," she answered. "I mean, Zan has always been kind of caring like that. That is the sort of thing he would do."
"But like that, your highness?" he exclaimed. "All at once, completely ignoring all his advisors, upsetting every person in the council? Even yourself! Surely, he must be ill."
"But what can we do?"
"Princess Vilondra," he said formally. "I think you must give authority for King Zan to be arrested, and detained in a Medical Centre until his mental health improves. You, my lady, must rule Antar and the Five Planets in his stead. You must reverse these decrees, and implement them more slowly. For Zan's sake. For all our sakes."
"Are you sure this would work? Perhaps we should talk with mother."
"For our plan to work, Vilondra, we must involve no one else. If Zan were to hear of this... well... treason is an ugly word, your highness. It will take time to plan. He may recover in that time, but we cannot take the risk. We must prepare."
He paused, considering something.
"It might be best if we arrange for his arrest to occur after his wedding. That way, he will not be alone, and everyone will know it is temporary. We could announce that Ava would rule jointly by your side, until he recovers. Then all will know we do not seek to replace him."
Taysha sat in a quiet corner of her chambers, staring out at the fountains, idly wondering how Zan was, and what he was doing. She knew that things were not going well for him, she could see it in his face every time she saw him, which was every day. Ava always insisted that Taysha accompany her when she went for her daily visit with Zan, a constant reminder as to whom it was that would be his wife. Taysha had been rather surprised at how little support Ava gave her future husband; she seemed more concerned with how much time he would spend with her. Whenever he asked her about a decision of his, she would nod and say how good it was. Taysha could see that he was rapidly going down hill, and no wonder. Those closest to him were doing their utmost to distance themselves.
His friend Larek had hurried back to his own planet, only promising to return for the wedding. Taysha knew that Zan was hoping that his friend might remain here with him. He said as much to Ava, but she blew it off with a shrug, and a "That's nice dear." In a move that surprised even her, Geltar quit as Zan's bodyguard, and accepted a posting on a remote outpost. All Ava could say was "There are plenty of other guards." She remembered Geltar's devotion to Zan, and knew that this was just not like him. Even his sister, Vilondra, was openly flouting his authority by attending balls and parties with his senior advisor. Her actions had lately become scandalous, and there were rumours that they had become lovers, despite her increasingly frequent appearances with one of his Generals, Nikolas. Zan desperately needed support.
During her visits, Taysha would never speak. She tried to give him comfort by allowing Zan to see her feelings in her eyes, but Ava was ever vigilant. Taysha wanted so badly to help him. She could see that his intentions, although very good, were thoughtlessly executed. When a decision had to be made, and he was unable to decide, he seemed to almost pick the answer at random. When there was a minor uprising to the North and General Nikolas asked which army units should be sent, Zan flipped a coin to help him decide. Meanwhile, Zan grew increasingly isolated; his only pleasure these visits from his betrothed. Taysha wished that it was more to do with her presence than Ava's. Poor Zan looked so ill, and while Ava was not looking, she had allowed herself to squeeze his arm, a small gesture of comfort, she hoped.
Taysha heard voices in the next chamber. Her father was discussing something, with someone.
"That's no excuse to avoid us!" he said angrily to whoever was there. "You would have every reason to visit us. After all, are you not supposed to look after his interests? Instead, you leave us here in the dark. We do not know what is going on!"
"His interests do not concern me!" the man snapped.
Taysha recognised the man now. It was K'Var, King Zan's trusted advisor. She gave a wry laugh, and entered the room.
"Taysha!" her father exclaimed as she entered.
K'Var turned to face her, a big smile on his face. He opened his arms wide.
"Taysha, my beloved!" he exclaimed. "Have you a kiss for your betrothed?"
Taysha looked at him coolly. Four years ago, she would have leapt into his arms without even thinking about it, but things were different now. K'Var represented a world she had left behind, one that she wished would go away. It was K'Var who had come to her father, two weeks before her sixteenth birthday, and told them of the discovery that Taysha was Isozilde reborn. At first, they had refused to believe it, but when K'Var insisted that Taysha have her birth star-chart read, and compared to that of Isozilde, they knew it was true. K'Var, it seemed, had deciphered the prophecy, and had told them how it was Taysha's destiny to rule Antar, the Five Planets, and the known Cosmos, with K'Var at her side. They remained reluctant to believe this, until the attempted rape by Prince Zan. After that, they grew close. She became enchanted by him, and had even thought that she loved him. Then she met Zan, and had discovered what love truly felt like. With K'Var now, she felt only... suspicion.
"Does Princess Vilondra not give you enough kisses, Uncle K'Var?" she asked, coldly.
"Taysha," he pouted mockingly. "You're jealous. How sweet. And you know I am not really your uncle."
"No, K'Var," she sighed. "I'm not jealous. I am however, wondering why you play this game? What purpose does it serve your cause?"
"It is your cause also," he said to her gently, waiting for a response that did not come.
"The prophecy is not served until we are married, Taysha," he said, in a businesslike voice. "I am seeing to it that after King Zan's wedding to Ava, just when the Perdreians believe they have corrupted the prophecy, something will happen to allow the two of us to marry."
"And what is that something?" she asked.
"King Zan will be arrested, declared insane, and locked up in a medical facility for his own safety," he laughed. "Vilondra will claim the throne, and grant you your freedom, the freedom to choose your own husband. We will then marry, immediately. When all see the prophecy served, we will take the throne of Antar, for there is no force that can resist the prophecy."
"So King Zan will still live?" she asked, a hope rising in her heart.
Her betrayal of him would not have to result in his death after all.
"I'm afraid not, my love," he smiled. "To prevent any future resistance, the whole royal family will still have to die. However, we will allow everyone to believe that he is still alive, for a while at least. Perhaps, for show, you could visit the facility, pretending to visit him."
His tone turned a little cold.
"For everyone knows of your friendship," he sneered.
She looked at him, slightly scornful. Zan had never spoken to her like that.
"Yeah," she sighed. "That sounds good, K'Var. If you'll excuse me, I have a busy day tomorrow."
"She won't say anything, K'Var," Talbuth stated after his daughter had left.
K'Var was staring at the door she left through.
"It's not that, Talbuth," he sighed. "Before she departed on her trip, I thought she loved me. She could scarcely wait to return, knowing that soon she would be married to me."
"I think you misinterpreted her feelings, K'Var," Talbuth told him quietly. "I think she was in love with the idea of revenge. Then she met Zan."
"Does she love him, do you think?" he asked tensely.
"I don't know," Talbuth answered. "But finding out that she had falsely accused him of attempting to rape her has had a profound effect on her."
"She said that she would not let me down," K'Var hissed angrily.
"I fail to see how Taysha has let you down, K'Var." Talbuth stated, full of concern for his daughter.
"Not Taysha!" he snapped. "The other... the witch!"
"What are you talking about?"
"She said she would make Taysha see it, that it would be real!"
Understanding dawned in Talbuth's eyes.
"What?" he demanded angrily. "You had someone mind warp Taysha? Someone created the image of Prince Zan trying to rape Taysha?"
"I wanted to make sure that she would be so afraid of him, she would stay away."
"Why? If we had not made those allegations, I would still be leader of the Kalithens, and Taysha would be a lady still. I would have been able to announce your betrothal, with no problems. She has suffered so much!"
"No," K'Var snapped. " Had you still been leader, they would have spent a lot of time together. I could not risk Zan getting to know Taysha. That would have spoiled everything."
"I fail to see why," Talbuth added, regaining his calm. "But it was all for nothing. They did spend a lot of time together. They did get to know each other. In spite your best attempts. Besides, what is so bad about Zan knowing Taysha? Perhaps if they had met before he met Lady Ava, they might be the ones marrying in a few weeks. What a combination they would make. He needed no trickery to win her heart."
"You forget what I have invested in this Talbuth," K'Var snarled. "What WE have invested. Do you think that Zan would allow any of us to live should he find out? You? Your wife? I think even Lady Taysha would find herself shorter by several inches."
Lord Talbuth nodded.
"Just make sure she knows her duty. I will worry about winning her love again when we are married."
Zan awoke on his wedding day knowing that whatever it was that was going to happen, it would be today. There was no way to explain how it was that he knew, it was just a... feeling. He just knew. He again ran his plans through in his mind, hoping fervently that he had covered every eventuality. With a deep, and heavy sigh, he rose, and picked at the breakfast that a servant had lain out for him earlier that morning. He quickly bathed and dressed, hoping that the day would somehow sense his impatience and hurry on by. He found himself walking to his sister Vilondra's room. Although protocol would not allow her to be a bridesmaid to Ava, she would doubtless be dressed as ornately, if not more so, than the others. Ever since the day that he had betrothed her to Rath, a move his mother had supported, she had not spoken to either Zan or to Rath. He was concerned over her behaviour with K'Var, whose word he listened to less as a result, and for her reputation. But that was not why he wanted to see her today. He wanted to make sure that her part in his preparations was assured.
"Vilondra?" he called as he entered her room.
"Go away Zan," she called back coldly from her inner most chamber. "I'm not speaking to you."
"Vilondra, just for today, can you pretend that you are not mad at me?" he asked. "I miss my sister."
"Well, then perhaps you should have remembered you had one to start with, and asked her opinion from time to time."
"Please, Vilondra?" he called. "I would not want to part company with you like this."
She quickly entered the main chamber, dressed in a robe, looking slightly flustered. Did he know?
"Why do you say that?" she demanded guiltily. "What do you mean?"
"Well," he sighed, "it's just that after today, I doubt that we will see much of each other. You know, with me being married, and all."
"Oh," she sighed with relief.
Perhaps Zan was okay now. A simple test.
"Zan? You could revoke some of your decrees, as it's your wedding day. It's not too late."
Zan looked at her, seemingly considering her proposal.
"I'll tell you what," he sighed, "After my honeymoon, we'll discuss your betrothal to Rath. But the other decisions, Vilondra. I have to do this. Will you be the sister I love, and who loves me, this day at least, please?"
"Oh, Zan," she whispered, and pulled her brother into an embrace. "I will always love you. No matter what, I will always love you."
"I have a gift, Vilondra. For you to wear today," he said, extracting himself, and handing her a box.
She opened it to reveal a large gem brooch, with the symbol of Antar engraved into it.
"Wear it today, please Vilondra?" he begged.
"Of course, Zan," she smiled with tears in her eyes. "This is exquisite."
"Who was that Taysha?" Ava called out after Taysha had returned from the door.
"A messenger, from King Zan, mistress," Taysha replied with a curtsy.
"And?" the future Queen demanded haughtily. "What did he say?"
"Nothing, mistress," Taysha replied. "He gave me this parcel to be given to you."
"Oh, how charming. He is sending me a little trinket just before our wedding." Ava sighed. "He is such a wonderful man. He will make a fine husband for me. Don't you agree?"
"I am sure you are right, mistress," Taysha whispered, her eyes downcast.
"What about you, Taysha? Have you a man in your life? One who will give you such trinkets?"
"No, mistress," she said quietly, remembering the pendant that Zan had given her on the ship, the one that now hung between her breasts. "Those rights belong to the King. It is he who will arrange my betrothal."
"Really?" Ava queried in surprise.
She opened the box, to reveal an ornate gemstone brooch to Taysha. In the main gem, the symbol of Antar had been engraved. It was far more ornate than Taysha's own pendant. As Ava gleefully pinned it to her wedding gown, Taysha felt a sudden pang of jealousy.
"Well, Taysha." Ava grinned with malice. "Hadn't you better get into your bridesmaids dress? We must look our best for Zan, mustn't we?"
"Will you quit that pacing!" Rath ordered Zan. "It won't help, you know."
Zan was constantly walking back and forth, mumbling quietly to himself. Rath assumed he was worrying over his big day, when in fact he was running through the facts that he knew. Again. He was still hoping he might solve the puzzle before it was too late. At Rath's comment, Zan stopped and looked up.
"What?" Zan asked. "Oh I'm sorry, Rath. I'm just, I think..."
"Relax, Zan," he laughed. "She'll turn up."
"Oh, I don't doubt that," Zan laughed with him. "Ava has been looking forward to this day for a long time now."
"So what's bothering you?"
"Something's going to happen, Rath," he whispered. "Something bad. If any thing happens, Rath, can you protect Vilondra? Whatever happens, stay by her side. Even if she... if... if..."
"Sure Zan," Rath interrupted. "But nothing will happen."
"Stay with her, Rath," he urged. "No matter what! Promise?"
"I promise, Zan." Rath said solemnly. What was up with Zan, he wondered?
Zan reached into his pocket and pulled out a box.
"It strikes me that you have no symbol of authority, Rath," Zan smiled. "So I had this made for you."
Rath accepted the box from Zan and opened it. A gemstone had been shaped into an oblong, and set into a ring. The symbol for the planet Antar had been carved into it.
"It's great. Thank you Zan," he smiled, placing the ring back into the box, and into his pocket.
"No, Rath," Zan urged, as he grabbed Rath's arm. "I want you to wear it. For the ceremony. Please?"
Looking carefully at Zan, and seeing the urgency in his eyes, Rath retrieved his ring, and placed it on his finger.
"It's all set." Zan whispered, pinning a small brooch to his own breast.
It was the 'V' shape cluster of the five planets.
Taysha hurried to the safety of the chamber that Ava had assigned to her for today. She carefully pulled out the foil that the messenger had given her. She knew that it was a message from Zan. Eagerly, her eyes read the small, private letter.
My beloved Taysha.
If things were different, know that it would be you that I would marry today, you who I would lie with tonight. In my heart, there is a spot that I know is where you belong. I will keep the memory of you there for all eternity.
The life of a King is not his own, and so I go today to try and secure peace for the people of Antar. What does it matter that I will have no joy, if it means that everyone else may live peacefully?
I have made arrangements that will secure your freedom, both from Ava, and from the palace. I have granted you your life back that you may find your own husband, and live your own life. Do not forget me Taysha, or what we have shared. The Universe will end before I would forget you. Look after yourself Taysha, for I know in my heart that we will not meet again in this life. Know that I will find you, wherever you are, in the next. I love you, now and for all eternity.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. As her father had predicted, Zan had arranged to give her freedom back. She was now free to marry K'Var, and to destroy the man she truly loved. And Zan seemed to know that something was going to happen. He seemed to know that this time, unlike the attempt on his life on the ship, he would not survive. What would it matter that Zan would never know that she loved him too? Taysha broke down and cried her heart out.
Vilondra sat in her usual seat in the royal enclosure at the magnificent Cathedral of the Universe. On the raised dais before her, her brother, King Zan and his bride, Lady Ava sat in the ornate Seats of Marriage, while the Archbishop performed the solemn ceremony. As usual, Lady Ava looked lovely, and surprisingly, so too did Taysha, her bridesmaid. When Vilondra had heard of the latest act of cruelty that Ava had inflicted upon the unfortunate girl, she had been sure Ava would make Taysha look quite plain. Instead, it was almost as though Taysha were in her own wedding gown. She could see why Zan was so taken by her; she was exceptionally beautiful. Zan - she looked at him again, hoping that she would be able to help her brother.
She smiled to herself, wondering if Ava was aware of what was happening up there on the dais. Although the service was being conducted for Zan and Ava, the body language between Zan and Taysha spoke volumes. The way their eyes constantly found, and held each other, it was almost as if the ceremony was somehow... binding them instead. She gave a deep sigh, and wished that were the case. Perhaps if Zan had Taysha to help and assist him, his decisions might not have been so... thoughtless. Perhaps Taysha might have prevented him from becoming ill. She just knew, deep in her heart, that Zan and Taysha together could fix anything. However, it was left to her to fix this.
"I have a surprise for the them," Vilondra whispered to her mother, seated beside her.
Lady Layene smiled at her daughter, amusement in her eyes. She knew of the special bond that existed between her children, even though things were a little... strained at the moment.
"I hope that you will not embarrass him, beloved daughter," Lady Layene smiled. "Too much!"
"Please remember, mother," Vilondra urged, "I do this because I love him."
Vilondra quietly rose from her seat and, keeping to the walls, moved to the back of the Cathedral. By the doors to a large antechamber, she waited for the Archbishop to give the sign that the marriage was complete, and that Zan and Ava had married. At last, he turned, and holding his religious sceptre in the air, made the announcement to the congregation.
"Let all of Antar rejoice at this, the fulfilment of the ancient prophecy," he intoned. "The Kalithen Queen sits with the Perdreian King. Peace has been restored."
Amid the rapturous applause, Vilondra opened the door to the antechamber.
It had long been forbidden that armed warriors enter the Cathedral. For this reason, King Zan's own Royal Guard were standing to attention just outside the main doors, waiting to form a ceremonial arch, while Zan's most senior general, Nikolas, was stationed in the streets with a whole company of warriors, watching all the other doorways. From within the Antechamber, twenty Kalithen soldiers, prepared by K'Var, wearing the pale blue ceremonial robes of the Perdreians, snapped to attention. They wore ancient armour, and carried ceremonial swords, forming a special honour guard. They filed from the antechamber, with Vilondra stepping aside to let them pass, and marched in a special slow step down the centre aisle towards the dais. Zan, Ava, Rath and Taysha turned to face them. The congregation was applauding the spectacle; Ava and Rath were smiling widely. Vilondra saw Zan's own smile disappear, his eyes growing worried as he searched the room for someone. Her? When their eyes met, she saw Zan hiss something to Rath, who appeared startled and looked to Vilondra, nodding. It was Taysha's face that made Vilondra realise that something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Her face showed such fear!
The honour guard reached the dais, and spread across the front, facing their King. They snapped to attention, and drew their swords, holding them to their faces, blades upright.
"Your Royal Majesty, King Zan, Ruler of Antar and the Five Planets." The leading officer shouted out in a steady cadence.
The cathedral grew silent, waiting to hear the special pronouncement, doubtless swearing everlasting loyalty to the prophesied King and Queen. No one noticed Zan looking edgy, or a horrified looking Taysha easing her way to the back of the dais.
"For your crimes against the people of this planet, we arrest you. You will be tried for your actions, and executed for your treason against Antar."
The cathedral was stunned into silence. No one moved. Vilondra was completely shocked at her sudden realisation. She had been tricked into betraying Zan.
"By whose authority do you arrest me?" Zan asked calmly.
It was almost as though he had accepted his fate. It was like he knew. Vilondra felt her heart crumble into dust. He knew that she had betrayed him.
"By my authority." A voice shouted from the back.
K'Var walked down the aisle towards the dais. Behind him, Lord Talbuth, looking very uneasy, followed. The gasps from the congregation were audible. Everyone knew of Zan's kind treatment of Talbuth.
"So, K'Var." Zan announced. "The Puppet Master. You show yourself at last. And you, Lord Talbuth, I wondered when you might fly your true colours?"
"Oh, come now, Zan." K'Var sneered. "You could not have foreseen this, surely?"
No one could see that inside Zan's mind a few pieces of the puzzle he had spent years accumulating came together. Although it was not all clear, he knew, he understood, and the voices were exultant. Despite his lack of total comprehension, he would not give K'Var, who he now knew to be the Puppet Master, his total satisfaction. It required a small gesture, at the very least.
"But I have, K'Var." Zan smiled. "You may have been able to delete some of the Data records, but did you not think that there might be other avenues of knowledge? I know all about Isozilde, and Traznor. I know that you seek to marry the re-incarnation of Princess Isozilde, and claim the throne for yourself, through her."
K'Var looked at him suspiciously, ignoring the stunned cries from the congregation, his mind spinning. No, he did not know all of it. Lord Rath moved to King Zan's side.
"You are too late K'Var." he stated loudly. "My sister has already married him."
K'Var turned to Rath, and sneered.
"You know nothing, you buffoon. You are even more gullible than your father."
Rath stepped forward angrily, but Zan held his arm. Zan's own sense of calm eased him.
"You have all been so puffed up with your own importance, you have all been blind. You could not have known, Zan, otherwise you would have been prepared."
"Oh, but I am K'Var. I am." Zan smiled. "There will be no further weddings this day. The Prince and the Princess WILL be re-united, but it will not be you. Her heart is held by another."
A loud gasp of confusion echoed across the congregation. K'Var stared at him with a look of incredulity. Did he truly know? No. Surely he was bluffing.
"Seize him!" snapped K'Var.
At once, pandemonium broke out. Vilondra threw herself at the main doors, and called for the guard. Zan immediately held his hand up, and a shimmering green shield appeared separating himself, Rath and Ava from K'Var's warriors. The leaders of the other four planets threw themselves to the floor, immediately covered by their bodyguards, and their own shields. Some of the warriors started to fire bolts of energy against Zan's shield, while others turned to face the crowd. While most of the crowd were in a panic, and tried to flee the cathedral, crashing into the guards trying to enter the huge chamber, still others sought to assist their chosen side. Many were being killed in the crossfire. In frustration, Rath hurled a blast of energy at the nearest warrior, expecting the shield to absorb it. He was as startled as the warriors on the other side, when the one he aimed at crumpled to the floor. The others took cover, but kept firing at them.
It was as if the world had slowed down for Rath. He saw Vilondra racing down the aisle, coming to the assistance of her brother. She was caught in the crossfire from one of the warriors, aiming at a Perdreian guard. As the force of the impact threw Vilondra into the pews of the cathedral, King Zan gave out a terrible cry of anguish. His shield dropped instantly. As Rath spun to look at Zan, he spotted Lady Taysha behind him. She lifted her hand with a scream of terror, and an explosion of pure white light blinded everybody. When his sight returned, Zan was flying backwards through the air. Rath knew he was dead before he hit the ground. Taysha was already fleeing, so remembering his promise to Zan, Rath rushed to Vilondra's assistance. There was nothing he could do for his friend.
He did not know if she lived or not, but with tears running down his cheeks, Rath stayed by her side, throwing his bolts of energy at any who seemed might want to hurt them. Zan's well-trained Royal guards were being decimated by a handful of men. One collapsed at his side, a young man Rath did not recognise. It was then that Rath realised that he did not recognise a single one of Zan's Royal guards. He thought that he knew them all. He spotted K'Var, standing behind Lord Talbuth, watching his plans come to fruition. Rath stood, and faced the treacherous pair. How much kindness had Zan shown Talbuth? And Taysha! Rath raised his hand.
"Good bye, K'Var." he screamed.
A blast of energy disintegrated a pew by his side, knocking him down in a shower of splinters. He rose to find General Nikolas and some soldiers hurrying towards him. Now he knew the depth of this treachery, and how hopeless his situation was. He raised his arm, which was badly injured, and fired a blast at Nikolas. Nikolas quickly grabbed a soldier, and pulled him into the blast's path, and then fired one back at Rath.
"I am so sorry, Zan, my friend. I have failed you again." Rath whispered with his final words.
Ava stood up, still looking confused. At her feet laid the dead body of her new husband, Zan, a look of anguish on his face.
"You said he wouldn't die, K'Var!" she shrieked.
"I lied," he smirked. "Nice job, by the way. Where did Lady Taysha go?"
"You said she would just stand there and not call out a warning! You said that he would then see her for the traitor she was!"
"Did she not show herself as a traitor?" K'Var coolly told her. "You can blame his death on yourself, then."
"How is that?" she asked, through her tears while cradling Zan's head.
"I told you to make Taysha believe that it was Prince Zan trying to rape her. You obviously did not do a good enough job, and she found out the truth. They became friends."
"I did!" she shrieked. "I made her see Prince Zan!"
"Then you clearly saw Prince Zan as others did not."
Her eyes suddenly widened.
"They were never going to announce their betrothal that night, were they?" she hissed. "You made that up, just to make me use my mind warp on her."
"Oh, how clever. I think you have been spending too much time around our Ex-King Zan."
"So what now? Do you plan to marry me yourself?" she demanded. "I will refuse."
"And here I thought you were getting clever." K'Var laughed. "I don't want to marry you."
He turned to the soldiers, who were dragging the dead away.
"Place the Royal scum in the antechamber. I will want to display them. And find Lady Taysha!" he ordered.
Ava's eyes widened with the dawning of a sudden realisation at K'Var's urgency.
"It's her, isn't it! It was never me."
"Well, well, well." He laughed. "Perhaps there is some intelligence in your family after all."
Ava turned to flee and K'Var fired a bolt of energy into her back. She collapsed to the ground, dead.
"Put her body with the other's," K'Var ordered. "AND FIND TAYSHA!"
"We must hurry, my Lady," the old man urged Lady Layene, ushering her through the ancient sewers beneath the cathedral. "K'Var will soon start a search for you, and we must get you away from here. You will be our only hope, for some time."
"What do you mean?" she cried. "Both Zan and Vilondra will be killed. Without them, there is no hope!"
"I'm sorry my lady," he sighed, "They will die, I'm afraid. That much is inevitable. But there is no other way. Please remember, while there is life, there is hope."
"Who are you?" she asked, looking at the guard strangely. "Why do you speak the words that Zan would use?"
"My name, my Lady, is Glister. I am the man who taught those words to Zan years ago. And I am performing the tasks that King Zan himself placed upon me months ago."
"He knew?" she gasped.
As they hid among the buildings, dodging the soldiers that were searching the streets, they heard that Zan and the others were dead. They also heard that those loyal to King Zan should flee to New Dredni, far to the south, where a large army awaited. Glister seemed to know exactly what to do, and despite Lady Layene's protests that they flee to these ancient lands, he took her the opposite direction, and out of the city. They spent the next day avoiding the warriors of K'Var, that were searching for any who would oppose his rule. But Glister seemed to know just how to avoid the searchers. At last, Glister brought her to a small hut, nestled against the base of the Pyramid, by the platform on the Holy Sea. Lady Layene saw that the ship was no longer there. Once inside the relative safety of the hut, she collapsed into a small chair and started to cry.
"If he knew, why did he not get a stand in, someone to take his place?"
"Zan believed it was necessary." Glister said quietly. "He could not explain to me why, but he said that he had to die, so that he might live again."
"But both of them?" she sobbed.
"My Lady," Glister urged, "please contain your grief, for the sake of King Zan, and Antar. Just for a while longer. We need you."
The urgency of the tone was not lost on Layene. Lady Layene looked up and started to pull herself together.
"What should I do?" she asked.
"As long as there is someone of Zan's line claiming the throne, K'Var can never truly claim it. As long as we have a figurehead to rally behind, then there will be opposition to his rule."
"But how? With no heirs to the throne, there is no one to do this."
"Behind this wall, my Lady, all will be revealed, but you must do something. You must behave a certain way. You must... be a certain person."
"Who Glister? Who must I be?"
Glister kneeled on one knee, with his head bowed.
"Hail, Queen Layene," he intoned, "Queen of Antar and the Five Planets."
Tears formed in her eyes, which she wiped away. She knew what she had to do.
"Rise loyal subject. Rise that you may serve your Queen." She sobbed.
Glister waved his hand across the wall, revealing a silver handprint. He placed his hand in this, and the wall parted to reveal a chamber. A corridor lead from this chamber to other larger chambers, one of which housed a very large and complex laboratory. There were many people constantly working, each one concentrating on his or her task. When Lady Layene stepped into the chamber, they all stopped. She saw now, their sorrow. They all knelt on one knee, with their heads bowed.
"Rise loyal subjects," she whispered "Rise that you may serve your Queen."
"Until the King returns." Glister added.
"Why do you say that?" Queen Layene asked.
"Months ago," Glister explained, "King Zan approached a few of us, and started these plans in motion. He knew that something was going to happen, connected with his wedding. He could not explain how he knew this, he just did. I had already built this facility years ago, so with the aid of trusted colleagues, I had this laboratory prepared. What we are doing here is preparing for the rebirth of Lady Ava, Princess Vilondra, Lord Rath and King Zan."
"How is that possible?" the Queen asked.
"I have, uh, procured all the DNA samples we have ever taken from the subjects selected from the Planet Earth. When we find the four best samples, we will use these to clone, create if you will, four Earthling foetuses."
"What use are Earthlings to us? How will this bring Zan back?"
"I will come to that, your majesty. As we speak, another of our group is bringing us the bodies of our slain Royal family. They each posses an important piece of jewellery. These are special trinkets, made using an ancient, but very effective technology. You see, these trinkets are, shall we say, containers, that allows the soul... uh, spirit... uh, the very essence of who we are, to enter. Although their bodies are dead, they themselves are not. We can take these... essences, and place them into the clones that we will create. The clones will then develop in a special pod that will mimic the Earthling womb, allowing our 'Once and Future King' to be reborn."
"That answers my second question, but not the first. It asks yet more."
"We have no doubt that news of this will reach K'Var, for to give our people hope, they must know about this. They must know that our 'Once and Future King' will return. We also know that King Zan's demise was the result of treachery. K'Var will tear Antar apart looking for the reborn Royal family, so we will hide them on another planet. What better planet than Earth? An atmosphere so hostile to the Kalithens, that they would perish during their search."
"But why must they be in the form of Earthlings?"
"They will be free to move about, to mature without fear that the people of Earth might drive them away. Or worse! We will time their birth so that they are born as six year olds, about eight years from now. On Earth, this is considered an age at which they are less prone to the natural hazards of their planet. As they mature, we will have protectors, and tutors on hand to teach them everything they need to know about their home, and their past. We have studied the Earthling brain, it is far superior to our own, capable of producing far more power, although they themselves know nothing of this. We will enhance this capability. By the time they are mature, their powers will exceed any they might ever have had here on Antar. When the time is right, we will send for them, so they might return home and redeem us. In fulfilment of the prophecy, King Zan and Queen Ava will already be together. We will even programme an attraction to each other, dreams, so that they will understand."
"All we need are the essences," Glister continued. "Soon, we will have the people and the artefacts necessary for their journey. The cloning process will take place on the ship, during the journey. When we arrive, we will set up a special chamber in which to hide. When they are older, we will integrate them with the local people. We already have one who Zan believed will help us."
"They must have some way of communicating with us," Layene stated after careful thought. "Some way that they can send us a signal. Some way that we can find out what is going on."
"Well," Glister said, "It could be dangerous, but we could leave them some devices that would alert you to their use. You could project an image, a message to them. We could set it so that the devices sent us the contents of their mind. We would know exactly what is going on."
"Of course, your majesty."
She had killed Zan. If she had been asked, Taysha would not have been able to explain what had happened to her after her flight from the cathedral. Dimly, she recalled the soldiers rushing past her, and the cries of dismay as the rumour that King Zan had been killed preceded her. Killed by her! She recalled that there had been fighting in the streets, and groups of people milling around, direction-less. She could not remember which route she took to return to the palace, and she could not even recall if there were guards on the gate. She did, however, remember one thing. She had killed Zan.
He was dead, and it was by her hand. She had been hiding behind a large stone pillar when the fighting started. She glanced out into the great chamber, and was both frightened and sickened by what she had seen. Tears had been rolling down her cheeks as she watched people, her people and Zan's, killing each other. This had not been what she wanted, not in her name. She had decided that if perhaps she appeared at her beloved Zan's side, the fighting would stop. She had killed him instead.
As she stepped from her hiding space in the cathedral, she had caught Ava's glance, and was surprised to see that she held no fear. Was she that confidant of Zan and his abilities? She saw Vilondra caught by the blast, and she saw Zan's shield disappear. Things were running out of control now. One of K'Var's guards appeared behind Zan, with his sword poised to strike at his back. With a cry of warning, she threw a blast at the man. Taysha had never used any of the powers she held, her blast felt wild, undirected. When her sight returned, momentarily blinded by the white light she caused, there was no sign of the guard, but Zan was on the ground. Ava was looking between Zan and her, with a sickening look of confusion on her face. What had she done? She had to get away from her crime. She turned and ran towards the small door behind the huge altar to the Universe. She burst out into daylight, just as Nikolas's soldiers were rushing through every door into the Cathedral. With tears pouring down her cheeks, Taysha fled. She had killed Zan.
She sat in her room, waiting for the guards to come and take her away. It was no more than she deserved; being thrown to the waiting clutches of Captain Kishan. She had killed Zan. Her name would go down in history, one that would never be handed to another child again. It would become a name synonymous with treachery! She could never rule as Queen now, no Perdreian would ever trust her. Any minute now, she thought, the pounding on the door would signify that the soldiers had arrived. She removed her dress, now tattered and torn, and replaced this with simple utility suit. She was not surprised when she heard the soldiers. She was, however, completely surprised when she heard thousands of voices call into her mind.
Taysha jumped into the wardrobe, and the door sealed shut behind her. When she heard the soldiers in her room, she berated herself, for surely this would be the first place they would look. Then the soldiers were gone. She was just thinking about leaving when she heard voices she recognised.
"Where has she gone?" K'Var demanded.
"I don't know," her father answered. "Perhaps she has been captured by the Perdreians. Everyone saw her kill Zan, after all."
"No," K'Var yelled. "She's alive, she has to be."
"I don't understand," her father said softly. "He was so kind to her, to us. She liked him. Why did she do that? Why did she kill him like that?"
"Because she did not know she would kill him," chuckled K'Var. "She though she was saving him."
"What are you talking about K'Var?"
"Because I am surrounded by such incompetents, I had to alter my plans. Fortunately, I foresee such problems and plan ahead. I simply had Lady Ava make Taysha believe that one of my men was about to strike Zan from behind. She did the rest." K'Var spoke with awe in his voice. "Rather well, too. She has much power. Of course, she will doubtless be devastated, but that will make her all the more malleable. Call it a punishment for falling for that dog in the first place. You should have prevented that, Talbuth."
Taysha's heart fell lower than before. She had not only killed Zan, she had been tricked into doing it.
"How ironic that Zan has been betrayed by every woman he has ever cared for," K'Var laughed. "His sister let in the very guards who were sent to arrest him, Ava helped his biggest enemy to defeat him, and now Taysha, who he showed such kindness to, killed him. He will forever be known as Zan the Gullible."
"Why would Ava betray him?" Talbuth asked.
"Because she believed the Kalithens were trying to force Zan into a marriage with Taysha," K'Var said smugly. "She believed she was helping to prevent it."
"Why would she believe such a thing? Especially on her wedding day?"
"Because I told her," K'Var laughed. "I told her about the Earthling concept of divorce, and how Zan was planning to introduce it."
There was a pause in the conversation and Taysha wondered if they had gone.
"But the Mind Warp has never appeared in Lord Servetrius' family." Talbuth said, breaking the silence.
K'Var laughed, almost demonically.
"I was once a Medical Technician," K'Var spoke quietly. "I was there the night Lady Taysha was born. I was also there the previous night when Lady Ava was delivered. Xandor and Servetrius betrothed Ava to Zan the moment she was born. They called for a Star Seer, who compiled her star-chart straight away. They were both ecstatic when the results proved Ava was Isozilde. For some reason, they believed Zan was Traznor."
"But that's impossible." Talbuth interrupted. "You yourself were present when we had Taysha's star-chart produced, just after you came to us. You know no two living people have the same results. If you knew Isozilde had already been found, why would you suggest that? Unless... unless ..."
"Yes, Talbuth? Are you too showing signs of intelligence? It seems to be contagious today."
"But that's monstrous!" Talbuth exclaimed. "How could you have done such a thing?"
"I have been leading all of you stupid people by the nose since the day she was born."
"Yet you do not sit on the throne K'Var," Talbuth informed him. "You have not married Taysha, and have not been proclaimed the King."
"All in good time, Talbuth. All in good time," K'Var chuckled. "I have been planning this for so long now, another few days will not matter."
"All these years of friendship... of guidance. You... you're no friend." Talbuth spat disgustedly.
There was a shriek of agony, and a muffled thud. Taysha knew that K'Var had just murdered her father.
"A friend?" laughed K'Var. "I'm not even Kalithen."
There were sounds of movement, of K'Var moving a body.
"Yes, what is it?" K'Var called, to an obvious interruption.
"We have Denbers, the King's Chamberlain."
"It's about time," K'Var snarled. "Has Nikolas returned yet?"
"Yes sir," came the response.
"Good," he replied. "Send them both in. And clean this up. Spread the rumour that the Perdreians have butchered Lord Talbuth and his wife."
"It's about time, Denbers," K'Var snapped, when Taysha heard the two men enter the room. "Nikolas, is it over?"
"No sir," Nikolas answered. "Servetrius and his family are dead, but Lady Layene has escaped, as have Hanar, Sero, Kathana and Larek."
"Well, I had hoped to claim more than one throne today, but one is enough... for now."
"Also, we did not encounter many of the Perdreian forces. It's as if they just... vanished."
Another silence followed, clearly K'Var was thinking about the situation.
"There is no way the Perdreian soldiers would be out of the capital while their King is getting married," he snapped. "Especially as it was a fulfilment of a prophecy of theirs. Unless..."
"Unless what, sir?" Nikolas asked.
"Unless he knew," K'Var said hoarsely. "He said he knew! Damn it! Nikolas, what did you do with the bodies?"
"Well, we were going to impale them, like you said, but..."
"But what?" he screamed. "But what?"
"When we went to retrieve the bodies, they were gone."
"Denbers?" K'Var exploded. "What do you know of this?"
"I... I... I... couldn't come, I mean, not sooner, sir." Denbers stammered. "Zan... he gave me orders, and I had to do them or he would have suspected me."
Taysha was shocked to think that Denbers had been a spy all this time. Here was another addition to the growing list of Zan's betrayers. Her name was at the top.
"What were your orders, Denbers?" K'Var hissed. "What was it you did?"
"I... I... I carried... orders, sealed orders, to all Perdreian garrisons, and all the Kalithen Garrisons loyal to Perdreia."
"What were in those orders?" K'Var demanded.
"I don't know sir," he gulped. "But those are the least of your problems."
"What do you mean?"
Taysha listened carefully as Denbers explained how he listened in on Zan's plan to have the Perdreians send Zan and others to Earth, reincarnated as clones of Earthling bodies.
Reborn, thought Taysha. Zan would be reborn!
"Nikolas, I want you to take a detachment of soldiers, and secure the ship on the Holy Sea."
"They already have it." Denbers told them. "Zan had it moved two months ago."
"Damn him!" shouted K'Var. "How is our own ship?"
"Not nearly as good as the other, sir. Our Star Drive is not nearly as powerful as the Perdreians'. It would take us five years to go through the wormhole. We would arrive three years behind them."
"Nikolas, I want you to take a detachment on our ship to Earth. Find them, and destroy them."
"But sir," Denbers interrupted. "Our ship is small. We would not be able to send many men in the ship. The fuel rods take up too much room."
"How many men could he take if they had only enough fuel to get there?"
"About one hundred, comfortably."
"Can we squeeze in one hundred and fifty?"
"Yes, but the journey would be a nightmare, and how would they get home?"
"By then, we will be in control of the Granolith. We can harness its power to build a new space ship to come for you."
"Uh, sir?" Denbers interrupted again. "They are taking the Granolith with them."
"Does this get any worse?" shouted K'Var.
"Actually, sir," Nikolas said, "It does. The Earth's atmosphere, it's too harsh for us. We would die in days. How can we search the whole planet with a handful of men, in just a few days?
"Somebody give me some good news for change!" K'Var bellowed.
"Actually, I have two items of good news," Denbers added. "We have someone who may be able to destroy the mission before it starts. If by some miracle, the ship reaches Earth, he will be able to identify the location to Nikolas' men."
"What other news do you have for me?" K'Var demanded anxiously.
"Our Technicians have developed a special husk that will allow Nikolas and his men to move freely on the planet, without dying. It will be like a second skin, one that should replenish itself."
"Skins?" asked Nikolas. "Will they work?"
"Yes. They have been tested in a mock up of the Earth's atmosphere. It draws upon the water in their atmosphere, and cleans itself of the nitrogen that it filters out. The bonus is, they can make you look like Earthlings, so you can move about freely. You can create your own community, and base your search from there."
"Denbers, collect two husks for you and your spy. Make sure you are on Zan's ship."
"Me?" Denbers asked, clearly startled. "But I thought..."
"You thought wrong, Denbers. This is not over yet. Do what ever you can to prevent their mission from succeeding. Try and perform it with the ship intact. That way, I will not have to send another ship to collect you. I need that ship to conquer the other planets," K'Var ordered. "Nikolas. Go to Earth. I want that Granolith. I want Zan destroyed. And if it is at all possible, I want Vilondra returned to me."
"Vilondra?" Nikolas asked with surprise, and not without a hint of jealousy. "Will you not be marrying Taysha?"
"Perhaps." K'Var added. "Vilondra is quite a woman, don't you think, Nikolas? Besides, a king needs a mistress, as well as a wife. I will have the two most beautiful women in all Antar."
K'Var paused in thought.
"Denbers," K'Var asked. "What do you know of Mind Conditioning?"
"A little sir." Denbers replied, sounding confused. "Like hypnosis, only far more deep seated. The subject will obey the conditioning implanted upon them, without realising what it is they are doing."
"In your opinion, would any mind conditioning implanted on Ava... remain in her new life?"
"I fail to see why not."
"What's this?" asked Nicholas.
"Just a precaution," K'Var added. "In case she did not go for the plan, I had her programmed to have an overriding desire to mate with Zan. While he is asleep on her breast, she will kill him."
"When was this done?"
"A few hours after her birth," K'Var laughed. "When I switched her with Taysha."
Taysha's head was reeling with the information that she had heard. She ordered herself to calm down, and not to think about the implication she had discovered about her birth. Although dead, Zan was in trouble because of her. Their life together might be over, but clearly, he had a chance at another. She held it in her power to save him from a final act of treachery, and was determined to do so. But how? She did not know where he was. Where would his followers have taken him? As night fell, the voices seemed to urge her to leave her hiding spot. She was glad that she did not see the body of Talbuth in the room. She did, however, shed a few tears for the people she had thought were her parents.
She crept through the gardens, expecting at any moment to hear the call of a guard. Once outside the grounds, she mingled easily with the refugees fleeing the City, and K'Var's rule. She sought shelter in the ruins of a farmhouse a few kilometres outside of the city and fell asleep wondering how she might find Zan. She had a dream that night. She was standing next to the handsome young Earthling she saw in her vision when she touched Jervad. He was looking at her with such love and devotion in her eyes; it made her knees go weak. They were standing on a mountaintop, watching a great space ship approaching a purpose built platform. She knew that she was watching King Zan's return a few months ago. When she woke up, Taysha knew where to go.
A passing Kalithen refugee with room in his vehicle gave her a lift. He was talking of fleeing to the Perdreian colonies in New Dredni to start a new life. He was doubtless hoping that a beauty such as she might stay with him, if only for her own safety, but she crept away that evening after they had arrived at the Holy Sea. There were so many refugees, clearly hoping for the same miracle that fables claimed happened to the H'Manz here thousands of years before. A fable she had seen in another vision, when Zan had stepped from the space ship. A short while later, that miracle occurred. An armada of small boats arrived, and started to load the refugees on board. They had clearly come from New Dredni, for they were crewed by Perdreians. Just how much had Zan planned? Despite the danger of being recognised, Taysha joined a line to board one of the ships. She had little doubt in her fate there, but she would be out of K'Var's reach. A movement at the base of the huge pyramid shaped mountain caught her attention. Making his way towards an old woodsman's hut, with a loaded hover-sledge, was Geltar.
Taysha instinctively knew to follow him. She knew now that his abandoning of Zan was a ruse, that he was involved with Zan's plan. She carefully prepared what she would say to Geltar, for she knew that when she entered the hut, his first reaction would be to kill her. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the hut. It was empty. Taysha's heart sank. She noticed that one of the walls was solid rock, so Taysha waved her hand across the wall. Zan had told her of the Perdreian trick for creating secret doors. Unless you were authorised, you would never get in. A silver hand appeared, surprising her. She placed her own hand into the imprint, and the door opened. With a rueful smile, she realised that somehow, Zan had been expecting her.
Inside the chamber, Taysha hid in the shadows along the walls, following them as she came upon the empty chambers that were once some kind of laboratories. Eventually she came to another, very large chamber. There she found Geltar, talking to two other men, one of them a Kalithen. The three were looking at a small, sleek space ship, almost a miniature version of the big ship she had been to Earth on.
"Yes," said the other Perdreian. "I finished building it last year."
He was old, older than her father, or rather, Lord Talbuth.
"I spent years studying the space ship," he chuckled. "During travels through the worm hole, I changed my shape to a Kalithen so I could continue the studies. It was painful, but it was worth it. "
"Did Zan know you did this, Glister?" Geltar asked.
"No." laughed Glister sadly. "I heard that he did the same thing, not change, I mean. I miss him."
"He will return, Glister." stated Geltar. "But I wish I could have been by his side. It was my duty."
"This is your duty now, Geltar." Glister said quietly. "So Ren, can you fly this?"
"I believe I can, Sir." Ren confirmed.
"Apart from the fact that it is so much smaller," Glister continued, "It is the same in almost every detail. In place of the Observation Chamber, is just a simple chamber we can use as our laboratory. There are a few private chambers, but these will house our equipment. It will not be a comfortable journey, especially as the Perdreians will not be changing."
Taysha had heard both names before. Glister was his favourite tutor, and Ren was the flight technician who had been with him on Earth. She now knew that Zan had long known trouble was coming. He had made such detailed preparations. She wished she had been able to share this burden with him. Instead, she had killed him. All day, equipment and supplies were loaded onto the craft. At last, all seemed ready. Taysha had watched, hoping for the chance to sneak on board the ship, so she might be able to somehow warn Zan, but no opportunity arose. She was shocked when she saw Denbers arrive, and she remembered he and another spy would be on board. She also knew Nikolas would be following in another ship. Finding a small console hidden from everyone, she typed out a personal message to the one person that she believed would take it seriously. Lady Layene.
The crew was lined up, waiting for something. Taysha saw that Geltar was among them. She knew he would not let his King down. Zan's mother entered the chamber, wearing a crown, and the others bowed to her, as if she were a Queen.
"Today, you embark on a journey of salvation. Not just ours, but that of the Kalithens and Tanbo-ens also. It may even be that the other four planets will also be saved. Be ever vigilant, for we do not know if K'Var has heard of our plans. Let us assume he has, but remember that Kalithens will not survive for long on the hostile atmosphere of Earth. Good Luck, loyal subjects of Antar. May you forever be remembered in the annals of history."
It was Taysha's only chance. While they were intently listening to Lady, or rather, Queen Layene, she seized her opportunity, and crept onto the ship. She found a small space amongst the equipment, and hid. Soon, the Engines fired up, and she felt motion as it eased from it's hiding place inside the mountain. As she felt the pressure of the acceleration, she knew they were leaving Antar behind. Tears fell from Taysha's eyes as she remembered her arrival, a few short weeks ago, watching Antar approach, at Zan's side, when he had told her that he would have chosen her, if he could. But she had killed him.
Taysha hid in the storeroom for a few weeks. It took her some time to realise that she felt no pain from the Star Drive, just as she had not felt pain on her return journey. Was Zan reaching to her from beyond his grave? She sadly realised that she did not know his final resting-place. Be quiet, fool! she admonished herself. He is not dead, he will be reborn. The door opened, causing her to push herself back into the shadows. Glister and Geltar entered the storeroom, and carefully closed the door.
"Damn this pain!" Geltar cursed. "How did Zan cope with it?"
"We do not have time for that, Geltar." Glister said urgently. "What did Queen Layene's message say?"
"Someone left a message on a console at the launch site." Geltar said, quietly. "She doesn't know who left it, but it warned that there were at least two spies on board. It didn't say who they were. Much of the note was babble, about Taysha taking Ava, and how he isn't Kalithen, or something. No one could understand it. It was as if someone hysterical wrote it."
"So we have spies on board?" Glister asked.
"Ah, there's more. K'Var knows about the mission. He is sending a contingent of Kalithens after us, about a hundred and fifty. They have special Skins that allow them to survive the atmosphere. We are to take whatever steps are necessary."
There was a silence, while Geltar played with a small silver orb. Taysha saw it had the same symbol as her pendant Zan had given her. She pulled the pendant from under her tunic, and held it for comfort. She felt that it somehow brought her closer to Zan.
"Put that down, Geltar," Glister snapped.
"What is it?" Geltar asked.
"Very important, is what it is. That must definitely not fall into the wrong hands," Glister said quietly. "I have heard of these Skins. They seem to imagine that the Earth's atmosphere is more wet than it is. I do not think they will last as long as they hope. My belief is that they will last for only forty to fifty years. If we hide them where Zan went, where it was hot and dry, they may not even last that long."
"Fifty years is a long time for them to search for us."
"Ok, I have an idea. I will create eight clones."
"Yes, two sets of them. The first set will be the genuine royal party. They will be born with an inbred mistrust of others. They will seek to avoid large groups, always staying away, keeping to themselves. They will be reluctant to use their powers. They will learn nothing of who they truly are until they are old enough to understand. They will do nothing to draw attention to themselves. When it is time, we will teach them how to use their powers then."
"And the other set?"
"They will be the decoys. Expendable. Although they too will be wary, so as not to draw undue attention to themselves, we will make this set more aggressive, more self serving, and we will tell them of their past from an early age. Those knowing what to look for will find them, eventually, and will waste valuable resources trying to kill them. When they are dead, they will believe they have succeeded."
"Can we do this, split their essences?"
"I hope so, Geltar." Glister sighed. "I hope so, for all our sakes."
"What if they find the duplicate set quickly, and become suspicious that there may be an additional set?"
"If we delay their births, then each year we delay will be a year less for them to find us."
"How long can we delay?"
The pods should hold them for forty years"
"Should?" Geltar asked with a hint of nervousness.
"Ok, I will programme the pods to open in thirty-five years from when we implant them. By then, the Kalithens will be so desperate to complete their mission, they will stop when they find our duplicates. Although that does not cover us if K'Var sends fresh units out."
"I will ask Queen Layene to prevent this." Geltar smiled, and the two men left the chamber.
A year had passed, and Taysha was quite weak with hunger. She had been able to steal some food from the stores, but always had to be careful not to leave any signs of a stowaway on board. At last, though, she had clearly left some evidence behind.
"You can come out now!" an angry voice demanded.
Someone knew she was hiding there.
"Please, don't kill me!" Taysha whispered, emerging from her hiding place.
It was Ren who had found her. Zan trusted him, so surely he would hand her over to Geltar. She knew what fate would befall her at his hands.
"Lady Taysha?" he exclaimed, a look of surprise in his eyes. "What are you doing here? K'Var is frantic!"
Taysha could not believe it. Ren was a spy. Everyone that Zan had helped in some way had turned against him. Including her. Why would this be? Why would a man, who owed his life to Zan, be involved in a plot to take his. A question that Taysha could not answer. Ren smuggled Taysha to his private quarters, a privilege because of his duties. During his time off duty, they talked together about the situation on Antar, with Ren sharing his meals with her. She had begged him not to tell Denbers.
"K'Var tore the planet apart." he told her, when she was recovered from her hunger. "Looking for you and the body of Zan both. Everyone believes that you had died. You should let me inform him of your safety. I'm told he was broken hearted."
"I did not think the time was right, Ren." she told him. "I had to be sure, you know? Then I heard of this mission. I think K'Var is overlooking something, and I want to be sure. Please let this be a surprise for him. You may present me as a wedding gift upon our return."
When he could, he took Taysha around the ship. She found it fascinating to look through the window on the bridge, at the strange 'tube' through which they were speeding, the wormhole. Then he showed her the chamber to which only Geltar and Glister had access.
"I do not know exactly what they are doing in there, Lady Taysha. Denbers says they have Zan in there. Do you think that he is still alive, only seriously wounded?"
"No, Ren." she whispered. "He is quite dead."
"He has many lives, Lady Taysha." Ren informed her. "I tried to kill him on Earth. I risked my life in that atmosphere, and followed them. When they dropped into a ravine, I tried to cause an avalanche. I killed one of them, but Zan and Geltar survived. When he returned, and saw my injuries, I told Zan I thought I heard someone outside. He gave me a medal."
Ren was laughing.
"He is dead." Taysha confirmed.
I killed him. I killed Zan.
All too soon, Ren informed her they were approaching the end of the wormhole.
"We have a plan, Taysha." he told her.
"What is your plan?" Taysha asked, her heart sinking.
She must save Zan, if only to redeem herself.
"There are three of us, not including yourself. As we approach Earth, and the Perdreian minds are distracted, the other two will rush the doors when they emerge for a break. There are only six of them, and one is an old man. Only one is a warrior, the others are only technicians. Once inside the main room, all we have to do is destroy whatever it is they find in there. A few well-placed blasts of energy should destroy things. The Perdreians will be reluctant to fight if their cargo is so precious."
Zan, Rath, Vilondra and Ava, she thought. How could she warn Geltar?
"What is it you will be doing?" she asked. "Can I not help?"
"No, You must remain safe, my lady." he smiled. "As for me, I must ensure we land the ship safely. Lord K'Var has need of it. Then I must send a message to K'Var so he knows where we have landed, and that you are safe."
Assuring Ren that she would wait in his quarters, Taysha crept to a suitable position in the corridor where she could see the main doors to the private chambers. She saw Denbers, and the other traitor hiding behind a panel. At last the doors opened. As the first Technician stepped through the door, Taysha shouted a warning, and fired a blast of energy into the wall. She knew Geltar would react instantly. The doors sealed shut immediately, trapping the poor technician outside, as the two traitors fired energy blasts at him. Taysha leapt from her position, and rushed to the bridge. She had to stop the message. As she had hoped, Geltar had another exit, and had the other two pinned down. They could not follow her.
Ren was plotting the landing points onto the transmitter, ready for his transmission. Through the window, she saw Earth looming, but there was no time to admire the view. She noticed that they would be landing during their night. Without pausing to think, she fired a blast at Ren. Her aim was off, and she missed. Why could this not have happened that terrible day in the Cathedral, she asked herself ruefully?. Ren quickly ducked, and rolled away from the transmitter.
"Lady Taysha!" he cried out in surprise. "What are you doing?"
"You will not send that message," she hissed.
"But I have orders. What is this? What game do you play?"
"You will not send that message!" she repeated with a shout.
Taysha fired more energy at the transmitter, which exploded in a shower of sparks, causing her to fall backwards. It saved her life. Geltar stormed into the room, and saw Taysha destroy their transmitter. He fired at her, but her fall carried her to safety, his blast only caught her side. Badly injured, she quickly scrambled into a sheltered position.
"Is this how you repay King Zan's kindness?" he roared. "I knew you were a traitor. I warned him you were no good. For his treatment of you and your father, you murder him in cold blood?"
"You don't understand, Geltar." she cried. "It is Ren. He was trying to signal K'Var with the landing positions."
"She lies!" Ren called from his own position, firing his own blast towards Taysha.
There was a sudden roar from the space ship, and an ugly red glow lit the bridge.
"Oh No!" Ren cried, and leapt for the controls. "I need help, or we will burn up. We are entering their atmosphere at the wrong trajectory. We will all die!"
"Is this what you want, witch?" Geltar shouted.
"No, of course not" Taysha wailed.
"Now that we have agreed we all want to live, will you help me here please?" Ren screamed.
Geltar and Taysha nervously rose, and went to assist Ren. Following his instructions, they manipulated the ship's controls, gradually changing their trajectory so that they would not burn up, but they still entered the atmosphere too fast. Frantically, Ren called out more orders, while Taysha and Geltar changed the settings. Ren seemed less panicked now, even though the ground was approaching rapidly.
"We will stop in a moment." he sighed confidently.
The bolt of lightening happened in slow motion. They watched as a tiny tendril of electricity reached upwards from the ground. They clearly saw each individual path of the charged ions in the atmosphere that split out, searching for the path with least resistance, discharged down the connection, clearly from the bottom of each fork first, rapidly rising towards them, and then through them. In a shower of sparks, as every element of their machinery exploded, the ship went strangely quiet, it's engines extinguished. It was as if only the whistling of the wind outside could be heard. Three faces cried out in terror as the ground raced up to meet them at a frightening velocity, and then there was an impact.
End of Book 3