Prologue I: The Birthing
It was somewhere between the dark throes of night and the first rays of morning that a child came into the world. This child was a prince, from the moment the light of the world shone upon his newborn face.
It was unfortunate that his mother would never live to caress that face.
"Will she survive?" The question was posed dispassionately, as if there was no indication of an alternative. The doctor seemed to know the answer even before his assistant nervously uttered a reply.
"No…no sir I'm afraid not. Her body could not withstand the strain." The "she" in question was a woman who currently laid shivering upon a gurney that was now thoroughly saturated in her own cold sweat. If not for the circumstances, the woman may have been beautiful, with her rich auburn hair strewn in wet strands around her fevered head. Her body rose and fell in time to her irregular breaths.
The woman was also a queen.
A deadly silence fell upon the room, punctuated only by the steady hiss of machines and the beeps of the monitors that covered the walls of the hospital room. Nurses surrounding the queen stifled their sobs into their aprons as tears feel freely down their cheeks.
"My queen….oh Lady Caroline! What misfortune has befallen you?" The men were more subtle in their display of sorrow, heads bowed in mourning, brows furrowed as they racked their brains for a cure.
Lady Caroline was now not nearly as regal as her given title demanded. She shivered violently as invisible hands gripped her in the worst of a terrible river. Harsh, guttural sounds escaped her lips, but they slowly and steadily formed into words.
"Bring…bring him…to me," she whispered. The sound of her voice seemed to snap the entire room out of its mourning haze, her gentle voice still commanding enough power to illicit the attention of everyone in the vicinity.
The first doctor to reach her bent a tender ear closer to the queen's lips.
"Tell me my lady, whom should I summon?" The very walls of the room seemed to hold its breath as the queen summoned up the energy to utter a response.
"My…my son. Bring him to me. I…want to see him…for the first and…last time." At that final phrase, the breath exploded out of the queen's lungs and she gave a shuddering breath, almost gasping for air.
"What the hell are you waiting for?" snapped the doctor.
"Bring the boy here. Now!" Three nurses scurried out of the room. A few tense minutes passed until they returned, treading slowly this time with the nurse in the center tenderly holding a bundle of blankets in her trembling arms. The room immediately converged around what, undoubtedly, was a baby boy. Upon seeing his face, one could almost forget the circumstances that had brought everyone together in the first place.
The head doctor gently lifted the child out of the nurse's arms and brought him closer to the gurney.
"My Lady, I have the child. Would you like to hold him?" The queen's eyes roved the room for a moment before resting upon the sleeping form of her son. Upon seeing him, her eyes grew misty, with tears forming at the edges. A wistful smile spread across her lips.
"Bring him…closer," she croaked. Following her command, the doctor brought the child to rest in the queen's arms. As she held her son, his eyes suddenly opened and fell upon his mother. The eyes were curious, full of questions that his mouth could not yet voice and his mother no longer had the energy to respond.
"How much longer does she have?" whispered one of the nurses. The doctor stepped away from the queen, quietly addressing his team as a group.
"I'm afraid she is not long for this world. At the very least, they were moments spent with her son."
"Whose birth, killed our queen," bitterly whispered another nurse. The other nurses nodded their heads in unison, their gazes hard as they leveled icy eyes towards the young boy.
"No!" suddenly whispered the doctor, his tone fierce.
"We must never tarnish that boy's memory, not in the slightest! What happened is not his fault, nor will it ever be. If you choose to blame, then so be it, but blame circumstance, not our crown prince. Not our future king." The doctor scanned the room.
"Do I make myself clear?" They nodded, their heads bowed in sorrow.
"Good," replied the satisfied doctor, looking back towards the queen.
"Now let the two of them be. I'll stay here to monitor Lady Caroline but I shall not be interfering. Go home, all of you; this is not your place to be now."
As the rest of the team silently trooped out of the room, he chanced a look back at the queen.
She was smiling so steadily and so powerfully that all the pain and suffering Caroline had endured seemed to melt away in an instant. She was young again and happy and free. To the doctor it looked like the most beautiful thing he had ever been a witness too.
Wiping a single tear from the corner of his eyes, he left the room as well.
"Well little one?" softly crooned the queen.
"What shall we name the most beautiful boy in the world? What name could there be, fit for a prince?"
This was a different room, a different environment, a different atmosphere, a different world.
His father was contacted later on.
"Where is she?" His most trust lieutenant stared deeply into the king's eyes.
"Dead, my lord. She was unable to survive the strain of producing your son. The boy is fine, however. As healthy as can be under the circumstances." A left arm suddenly whipped out and smashed the wall immediately adjacent to the king. The plaster crumbled beneath the power of the king's fist and the surrounding area was streaked with crimson blood. At the moment of impact, there was the audible sound of crunching bone.
"Dammit," he swore underneath his breath.
"Goddammit. There is no bringing her back? Could anything have been done?"
Commander Marcus Cesaro understood everything in that moment. He understood that rather that shed a single tear, his king instead chose to break his hand. There was a warped sense of pride that drove and dictated the actions of Gartholomew Clement.
"No, sir, there was nothing that could be done. Caroline's last moments, however, were spent with your son, if that provides any source of comfort. I can take you to her if you wish, but I would think that you would rather see your son first. Or should I say…our prince?" The king gave a bitter chuckle.
"He's no prince yet my friend. He is the reason why my Caroline is dead; he is the embodiment of my loss of what mattered to me most." Marcus stiffened.
"My lord, that may be true, but I'm sure we don't have to look at the situation from the perspective."
"And we won't," sharply replied the king.
"We will never look at the events that transpired in such a manner, and I forbid anyone from seeing the birth of my son as anything short of a miracle. We have an heir to the throne at last. That is what truly matters."
Releasing his fist from the wall, the king examined his handiwork. Blood coated the fingers of his left hand and the bone was smashed in upon contact with the wall. He shrugged it off. Now of all days, he had more important things to worry about. Looking up at Marcus, he smiled grimly.
"I am now officially ordering you to take leave of any duties today that do not relate to your primary occupation as my bodyguard. Is that clear?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Good. Take me to my son then. I want to hold the boy in my arms for the first time."
"And so it shall be done," replied Marcus, turning around as the sliding doors opened with a soft hiss.
"If you'd be so kind as to follow me…"
It was somewhere within that same hour that a revolutionary was placed upon the doorstep of a farmer.
It had been a relatively quiet night before a sound had shattered the peace.
Zack Arias was awake in an instant, his years of muscle memory dictating his hand towards the curved blade that stood beside his bed. It was only after a few more seconds had passed that he dared to relax, and he rolled out of his bed, coming into a low crouch, edging towards the entrance of his home.
'They've come for me at last. It was only a matter of time"- Zack's thoughts were stopped dead in their tracks as he heard something that destroyed all thought of danger from his mind. If anything, it inspired curiosity.
It was the sound of a child crying out, presumably the voice of an infant. It was the strangest sound that Zack had ever heard in his solitary existence.
Creeping forward, he slowly opened the front door. Peering out beyond his home he steadily searched for the source of the noise.
'There is no way…of course, must've been hearing things.' Turning around to close the door, he chanced a look straight down. He hadn't been hearing things at all.
His intuition had never failed him before and now was no exception. It had indeed been a child who had cried out; a small child wrapped in several warm blankets and bundled up with its fists waving in the air just outside Zack's doorstep. The child had been crying but its wailing had ceased for the moment as it curiously turned its eyes towards Zack's shocked face.
He was a baby boy that much was clear. Why he had been placed upon Zack's doorstep, the man himself could not answer. He gingerly reached out towards one of the blankets, drawing it away from the child's face. Putting the blade back in the house, Zack gently picked up the boy and held him in his arms. The child gave made soft whispers and gurgling sounds as Zack slowly rocked him back and forth.
"Who are you, strange one?" he asked.
"What's your name?" What felt like a million questions began running through Zack's mind but for some reason, his mind could only focus on a single inquiry.
"What's your name?"
Prologue II: Himalaya
The morning sun that rose over the land was a gladly accepted relief after the bitter cold of a long winter's night. The kingdom of Himalaya still lay asleep as dawn's first rays shone over the horizon but one man had already risen by this time, and he now stood looking out across his bedroom window. He was a deeply troubled man. He was also the king of the lands of Himalaya and Orion a position that had left him exhausted for much of his life.
As he looked out from beyond his window Garth Clement observed his world with a keen eye. His wife, his beloved Caroline, was dead leaving his son, Lyon, alone in the world without a mother. For the boy would be truly alone, now that Garth was the king of Himalaya and Orion, now that his duties would soon take up all of his time, if not his entire existence. The thought caused a massive sigh to escape from his lips. It had been years since Caroline's death and yet certain wounds never healed properly, no matter how much time was applied to the bleeding. His heart was heavy with memories of the only woman he had truly loved but even heavier with the thought that his son was alone, utterly alone. A child of barely five years with a father who loved him dearly but would never have the time or the patience to show it. What a terrible situation the king had found himself in!
He wondered if anyone truly knew what they were embarking upon when they became a king. Was anyone truly prepared to walk upon the mantle of their forefathers, to become a ruler, to lead so many people? Was anyone prepared to handle such responsibility to control the lives and fates of the masses?
'Because they cannot do so for themselves.' The voice that whispered out from within his mind was correct in its assertion. He did not, for one moment, believe that the people of Orion would be able to govern themselves, to determine their own destiny. It was a ludicrous thought, not even worth a moment's contemplation. How could he bring himself to believe in the dogs, thieves, and whores of the land of Orion when they could not even belief in themselves? They were nothing more than beasts, and that opinion was not simply exclusive to the king alone. It was a universal belief, an assumption, an accepted truth among all those who lived in Himalaya.
"My lord?" The king was shaken out of the reverie by the voice of Marcus Cesaro, his most trusted commander, and his greatest lieutenant. However, this morning he had hoped to be alone, and he had expected to be alone.
"Yes, yes, what is it that you want?" snapped Garth. If Marcus was taken aback, he did not show it, choosing instead to wear a mask of calm acceptance of the king's mood.
"If now is not such a good time I can leave"-
"No, no, now is a perfect time as you have taken the trouble to bother me at the crack of dawn," testily replied the king. It was only then that it struck him how annoyed he was coming off as and he quickly composed himself. It would never have occurred for a king to apologize to anyone but Marcus Cesaro, as captain of the Kinsmen task force, was not simply anyone.
"You'll have to forgive my behavior Marcus, I was simply musing, nothing more. Now what is really the matter?"
"Well…I'm afraid that I'm worried for you sire. I do not believe that you have noticed that this is the seventh day in a row that you have risen at dawn. In itself that is not so odd but if you factor in the fact that you do not sleep until the latest hours of night…well I think you can see why I'm worried for you, as a bodyguard and a friend. It is not only the fact that you do not sleep. You have refused food until it is forced upon you and I must say, you are very behind on your duties towards the nobles." Garth realized that everything that Marcus had mentioned was so perfectly true but, even then, he felt the old familiar anger rising in his throat as if a blast of hot air had blown across his face.
"Nobles?" he inquired, his voice steadily rising.
"I don't think you realize that I don't give a damn about the nobles. Their petty needs are no concern of mine, they are no better than those…those animals in Orion, just richer and fatter! Why should I care"-
"Because you are a king and you must do what is expected of you!" Garth and Marcus both spun on the spot, searching for the audacious voice. No one dared speak in such a manner to the king, not if they held any value towards their life. Their eyes fell upon an old man who was standing in the doorway of the king's chambers. From the look of him, it was surprising that the man had challenged the king as he could not have been more frail and aged. He barely stood at a height of five feet and yet he was still walking forward until he stood directly in front of Garth. The king seemed amused at the old man's audacity.
"Father Noah, I see that you hold little care over the state of your well-being today." His eyes shining, Father Noah stood rigid.
"As a member of the Sun Council, I have a right to voice my concerns if they concern the well-being of our kingdom! And you, sir, have held little care towards the well-being of our kingdom. Yes, our kingdom, not just your land to rule as you please. Do you understand, Garth Clement? I am asking you to do your job!" By this time Marcus had had enough. His arm suddenly snapped out at the elbow, wrapping itself around the neck of Father Noah, while his other arm produced a blade that held itself inches away from Noah's ribcage.
"I'll not have you speaking in such a manner to my king. Is that understood?"
"Unhand him Marcus," commanded the king.
"A little slander if of no threat to me. None at all. Father Noah, you are free to speak your mind but, as my lieutenant has just demonstrated, realize that there are others who are free to act as well. Is that understood?" Noah nodded and Marcus released him without another word.