Flames

Part 1

Prologue

The oldest legends tell of two great cities that existed before all else. Before even the dinosaurs, before the second chance of man. During the time when man was first given dominance over the Earth. But even these legends are not the oldest of the old. Still older tales tell of a time before even that.

At the birth of the universe a great flame flared in its center, a giant blue flame which embodied the whole of the universe. For a time, the Great Flame was content. In joy it bounced around the universe amusing itself as it saw fit. But after a time it became lonely. In desperation it created the first of its children and filled the universe with light.

Stars erupted into existence and gathered together to form galaxies. Planets and moons formed, giving birth to more spirits, each with a mind, heart, and soul of its own.

The Great Flame rejoiced at each birth, until it created the last of it children, the Twin Flames. The White Flame, embodying all that was good, right and just. And the Black Flame, embodying all that was evil, wrong, and untrue.

Like most of the Eternal Flame's children the Twin Flames could not be separated. But unlike the others, the two could not get along. Their fights caused havoc throughout the Great Flame's realm.

In an effort to appease both, and to minimize the damage, the Great Flame gave them a world unto themselves. He made a gem of it, the most beautiful gem in the entire universe and called it Earth, short for "Everlasting Art of The Heavens." He set times for each brother to dominate and set the greatest of his sons, the star Sol, and the most beautiful of his daughters, the moon Celia, to keep watch, and keep the peace.

Restrained by their brother and calmed by their sister, the Twin Flames remained at peace for a while. But peace never lasted long with these two.

Using their powers, the Twin Flames created beings to fight for them. They could create these being at will and arm them in any number of ways. Soon these battles threatened to destroy the very planet they were fighting over.

The Eternal Flame despaired at this and after some though, he decided on what to do. He restricted his sons still further and took control of their creations out of their hands. He built two great cities for these creatures he called humans, and placed one of the Twin Flames under each of the cities. The Eternal Flame then forbade his sons to influence any of the humans directly.

And so it went for many years. Peace reigned for a time, but the humans proved to be untamable and war soon broke out again.

In desperation the Eternal Flame sent a part of himself down to Earth in female form. Agents from the City of Light found her in the plain between the two cities, sick and wasting. They took her back to the city and nursed her back to health. Upon seeing her, the king fell instantly in love with her and made her his queen.

Before long the Queen bore him a son, Vorash, and there was great celebration throughout the land. But evil waited, as it always does, in the shadows and plotted its own evil deeds, for they believed the Queen to be the one from an old prophecy. A prophecy about a woman from heaven bearing one of the kings a son who would end the long war.

After several months their plan was put into action. Agents from the City of Darkness kidnapped the Queen and took her back to their king. After being repeatedly raped, the Queen bore another son, Carash. Her purpose fulfilled, the king of the City of Darkness had the Queen killed and took her body back to the place where she had originally been found, only to be met by the king of the City of Light and his army. Upon seeing his beloved wife dead, the King went into a rage and threatened war.

But before either side could make a move, the Queen's body was enveloped in bright blue flames. From these flames two beautiful women emerged, both with wings of fire. The woman with orange wings went up to the King of The City of Light and smiled at him. She kissed his cheek and whispered sweet nothings in his ear. She told the honorable Lord that everything would be all right and then said her goodbyes, and the king began to weep.

The other woman, the one with purple-black wings, went up to the King of the City of Darkness and scowled at him. She scratched his face and whispered curses in his ear. Then she told the Vile One that he would find no rest, not even in death, and he shuddered at her words.

The two women flew back together and became a giant ball of blue flames. The ball became a pillar that reached to the heavens and then vanished with a final flash.

The armies parted then, destined to take the field again within months. But tonight one leaves the field warm and happy, while the other leaves with a troubled mind and dread in their hearts.

From The Great Book

That resides in the Temple-City of the Blue Flame

Chapter 1

"She must have been very special," the prince remarked more than a little sadly as he waved good-bye to his father, the king, from the high balcony.

His two companions nodded in agreement, knowing that the prince was talking about his mother, who had been captured by agents of the evil king in the City of Darkness nearly 16 years ago. Once there she had been raped and after giving birth to another son, had been brutally murdered, all because it was believed that she would bear the child that would bring the twin cities of light and dark to a conclusion of their long war. But so far neither child had shown any great power.

"Sometimes I worry that he won't come back from these battles," Vorash, the prince, says. "He's the only family I have left. Well, aside from you three," he says to his companions and looks fondly at the red haired girl on his right, the brown haired boy on his left, and the bodyguard half hidden by shadows.

The boy returns the look with such love and affection that Vorash pulls him to himself and cradles him in an arm. The brown haired boy wraps an arm around Vorash and places one hand on his smooth chest, the half-sun tattoo around Vorash's left nipple pressed against his right cheek.

From behind them the waiting bodyguard, Zelesht says "Don't worry My Prince. Your father is a good king and a great warrior. He will return triumphant and alive. In this I am confident."

"I pray to the Great Flame that you're right Zelesht. I really do," Vorash says hugging Delnosh closer.

The bodyguard would have put a reassuring hand on the Prince's shoulder but he knew that Delnosh would reassure and hopefully distract the prince from such thoughts.

And for his part Delnosh did just that, pulling young Vorash closer to him and running his fingers through the prince's vibrant red hair and stroking his cheek, the only one in the whole city allowed to touch the prince in such a manner. It had been years earlier when Vorash had felt the need to explore the wonderful city that one day would be his when the two had met.

Six years earlier

It was an excellent day to be out, as were most days in the City of Light. The sky was blue and the sun bright. Delnosh had been out running errands for his mother, and the prince, who was trying to ditch his guards, was running through the streets. While looking back to see if he'd lost his pursuers he ran smack into a brown eyed boy, causing the boy to spill the contents of the basket he was carrying. Instead of getting up and resuming his run, which probably would have meant freedom for a time; Vorash began to help the boy gather up the contents of the basket.

"Sorry," Vorash said as he picked up a bright red fruit.

"It's okay," Delnosh replied. "No harm done." They paused and smiled at each other.

At that moment Vorash felt his heart stir and a strange feeling begin in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't know it but the same thing was happening to Delnosh. It was at that moment that the guards showed up.

"My Prince," said Zelesht sternly, "Why do you insist on trying to run off?"

"Honestly Zelesht," Vorash replied evenly, "I just want a little freedom, to have a little fun. Why do you insist on running it?"

"My Prince, you know full well that we're only trying to protect you."

"Y…You…You're…Prince Vorash," said a stunned Delnosh, dropping the basket again and once more spilling it's contents Delnosh at once began to sink into a bow as was the custom but Vorash stopped him.

"Oh please! I beg you! None of that!" he said looking around quickly. Luckily they were in an alley and no one had noticed. "The last thing I need is for people to know my face and true identity. I wouldn't be able to leave the palace."

"I understand My Prince," Delnosh said, "and I promise that that will be my only slip."

"Oh thank you, thank you. Now I don't think we've been properly introduced. I am Vorash."

"And I am Delnosh," Delnosh said giggling slightly. Then he took note of the sun's position in the sky and groaned. "And I am going to be late. Mother wanted these back home by 5 o'clock and it's already past that. Oh I am in trouble."

"Don't worry," Vorash said smiling. "I'll help you back to your house and explain everything to her. I'm sure she'll understand."

Delnosh wasn't so sure but he said nothing and just let Vorash and his guards help him gather up the fruit and carry it the few blocks to Delnosh's house, anything to stay in the Prince's presence for a little while longer. Not wanting to reveal his identity to Delnosh's mother Vorash sends his guards away.

Before Delnosh could open the door himself, it was opened by a pretty red haired girl with green eyes and a smiling face.

"Somebody's in trouble," she sang before turning and running to find their mother.

"My sister," Delnosh explained. "Her name's Marla."

Vorash just nods, waiting for Delnosh's mother so that he could explain what had happened and return to the palace to face his own punishment.

Just then a tall dark haired woman came into view. Vorash could see that she was a nice person, a person used to smiling judging by her eyes. Although at the moment she wasn't smiling. And she didn't look happy either.

"Delnosh," she said calmly but firmly. "Where have you been? I expected you home twenty minutes ago."

It was my fault ma'am," Vorash says.

"Your fault," she says looking at him closely.

"Yes ma'am," he replies. "You see I was running and wasn't paying close enough attention to where I was going and kind of bumped into poor Delnosh here. When he said you'd be angry about his tardiness I offered to come by and explain everything in the hope that you wouldn't punish him too severely."

Delnosh could tell that his mother was taken aback by Vorash's polite manner and straight-forwardness. For a moment he thought he might get away scott free, but only for a moment.

"Well I appreciate the gesture and you telling me the truth. Delnosh will still have to be punished however," she said smiling a little.

"I would expect no less from a good parent," Vorash said bowing slightly. Delnosh's mother smiled and began to blush.

"Speaking of which," Vorash says, "I really must be getting back."

"Very well then. Delnosh, say good-bye and bring those in quickly please."

"Yes mother," he replies, turning to Vorash he says," Will I see you again?"

"I hope so," Vorash says.

"So do I," Delnosh says. Then grinning slightly he adds so only Vorash can hear, "My prince."

Delnosh turns and goes inside glancing back every so often. When the door closes Vorash turns and heads back to the waiting guards who take their positions around him and guide him back to the palace.

It would be two years before they saw each other again. Delnosh's father was to be knighted along with several others for their bravery in a large battle against the City of Darkness. After the official reception the king held a party to celebrate the victory.

The prince, recognizing Delnosh after a couple of minutes of staring goes up to him and says, "I thought I recognized you."

Delnosh and his family bow at once and Delnosh replies, "I could never forget that day, My Prince."

"Please, this is an informal party. Rise, I beg you," Vorash says, a huge grin on his face.

"It's been a long time," Vorash says.

"Yes it has, My Prince."

"Delnosh, you know the prince," his mother says, surprised.

"Madame, I was the boy who…bumped into your son nearly two years ago," Vorash says grinning.

"Please, My Lord, forgive my manners from that day I meant no disrespect. Had I but known…"

"Madame, you were perfectly polite. More so than the circumstances required I assure you. I took no offense."

"Thank you, My Prince."

"Vorash! My son!" comes a joyful voice.

Vorash turns to see a tall, handsome, blonde man in rich clothes come walking up to them.

"Father," Vorash says bowing slightly.

"My Lord," Delnosh's father says beginning to bow.

The king waves away the bow and claps his son on the shoulder.

"I see you are getting to know one of our city's finest warriors," The king says proudly.

Delnosh's father puffs out his chest and stands taller while his family beams at him.

"Actually father I was talking to his son, Delnosh. Remember father? He's the one I told you about."

"And won't stop talking about," the king says laughing slightly. "Well Sir Darak, it would seem that your son has made quite the impression on mine."

"It would indeed sire. Although, I think I would remember Delnosh mentioning he had met the prince," Darak says looking quizzically at his son.

Delnosh blushes and looks embarrassed. "The Prince asked me not to reveal his identity. I found it difficult to mention the incident without breaking my promise."

"I apologize, that was not my intention," Vorash says.

"It's alright, My Prince," Delnosh says blushing deeper.

"Father, would you mind if I showed Delnosh around a little?"

"Not at all, not at all."

"By you leave then father," Vorash says bowing slightly.

Vorash and Delnosh run off toward the garden while their fathers continue to talk.

"How very small our city must have become for such things to happen," the king says smiling brightly.

"Some would say that fate has a way of pushing people together, My Lord," Darak replies.

"And yet others would curse fate for her fickle mind. Still others would bless her for those short, happy times." The king thought for a moment then shook his head as if chasing away unpleasant memories.

"But enough of such unpleasant thoughts. I am glad my son has a friend his own age for once. And I am glad that it is your son he has chosen to befriend."

"As am I, My Lord. Perhaps something of your son will rub off onto mine."

"Do I detect a note of disappointment in your voice Darak?"

"No, My Lord. I am very proud of my son. It's just that…well…Delnosh's interests lay…in other directions."

"I see."

"He is a very good artist and an excellent poet. I just wish he wanted to learn how to be warrior."

"To follow in your footsteps as it were?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"Speaking as one father to another Darak I offer you this piece of advice. Never force them to become what they don't want to be. It will ruin them as a person and the love they have for you will turn to bitterness and all will be undone. As for speaking as a king, poets and artists and other such people are in short supply these days. Also, never doubt the power an artist can wield, Darak. They have the power to motivate the masses, either into action or into inaction. They can move the heart, stir the mind, and heal the soul. This is a power which only a god can duplicate. And we are in very short supply of such people."

"A god, or artists, My Lord?"

"Both," the King laughs heartedly and then says somewhat sadly. "Be glad he does not wish to follow in your footsteps. I myself can tell that Vorash has no great wish to be king and continue this war but I know that when the time comes he will do what he must. I would give anything to release him and allow him to follow his dreams, but alas, that is not an option. Always remember Darak, free will is the greatest thing we have and we must allow ourselves and others to express themselves as they wish. They must be who they were born to be."

"Even if that means breaking the law?"

"Laws are more like guidelines to being better people. When someone breaks the laws they must learn that there are repercussions for their actions."

"But if people…"

"Darak, do not dwell on it. Such things tend to give people headaches. Now on to other things…"

In the garden, Vorash was showing Delnosh the statues and sculpted bushes.

"Truly amazing, My Prince."

"Please, can you not call me that?"

"Call you what, My Prince."

"The 'my prince' stuff. We're alone, let's dispense with the titles."

"But they show my respect."

"Maybe. But I feel that they belittle the other person, and I don't want you to feel that way."

"Yes, My…sorry."

"It's alright. Come, I want to show you something."

Vorash leads Delnosh to a maze of hedges. Moving quickly but carefully the two make their way to the center of the maze. Ducking through a slight opening in the hedge wall, Vorash leads Delnosh into a secret sanctuary. Sunlight streams through a high roof of tree branches.

"This is one of my favorite places in the whole palace. No one knows about it. I found it purely by accident.

"Come on, there's a small tree house up in the center tree. I don't know who built it but it's nice."

Together they climb a small ladder and when Vorash climbs inside the floor opening he turns to help Delnosh through.

Not realizing his own strength, Vorash pulls too hard and Delnosh, jumping at the same moment flies into Vorash and the two collapse to the floor, Delnosh on top. They stare at each other for a moment, their hearts beating faster, each trying to sort out the emotions exploding in their hearts.

Vorash gulps and says, "Sorry about that."

"No need to apologize," Delnosh says, gulping as well. "My fault."

They lie there for a while, trying to memorize each others features. Delnosh moves first, slowly he begins to get up but Vorash brings a hand up to Delnosh's face and gently strokes his cheek with the back of his fingers. Delnosh stops and stares at Vorash panic in his eyes but thoroughly enjoying Vorash's fingers gently stroking his cheek. Delnosh licks his lips nervously, feeling comfortable, nervous, and ten thousand other conflicting emotions. He knows he should move and get out of there as quickly as possible but his heart keeps him pinned to the floor.

It's Vorash who panics first though. Feeling a little ashamed of himself and not quite knowing why, Vorash pulls away.

"Sorry," he says sitting up.

"No, it's okay," Delnosh says, relieved and at the same time sad that the moment was over.

"Soooo," Vorash says nervously," Since we didn't really get to know each other the last time we met, tell me a little about yourself."

They talked for a while before returning to the party. Vorash invites Delnosh back and the next day he was at the palace gate right after lunch. And that's how it continued. Delnosh would come by the palace every day and the two would play in the garden together, their friendship slowly deepening to something else.

Now, as Zelesht looks at them in their intimate embrace he can't help but feel happy that the prince has found the one that made him smile again. But at the same time he worries about what would happen to the city when Vorash's time came. The prince had shown no interest in females despite the many promising women who made regular calls to the palace, practically begging to marry the handsome prince, Zelesht's own picky daughter among them. What would happen if the prince fell in battle with no heir?

As quickly as the thought invaded, Zelesht pushed it aside. He had no right to question the prince, for he knew his duties. He would question Delnosh instead.

Later that night Zelesht escorted Delnosh and his sister back to their home near the palace. Both had stayed late comforting the prince and reassuring him that his father would come home victorious and alive.

Quietly they walked through the paved streets, the lamps lighting the way. When they reached the house, Zelesht held Delnosh back a moment.

"I know you care for the prince a great deal," Zelesht begins once the door has closed. "And it's probably not my place to ask but…how much would you do for him?"

"I would do anything for Vorash," Delnosh says without hesitation.

"Do you love him," Zelesht asks quietly.

"Yes," Delnosh says just a quietly.

"And would you be willing to stand aside and do what must be done?"

"What are you asking me Zelesht?"

"The future of our city is at stake. It would be wise for prince to have an heir as quickly as possible. I'm asking if you're willing to allow that."

"Vorash knows his duties, as do I. I will not stand in his way, but I will not go quietly into the night either."

"Fair enough. I'm sorry. I had to know."

"You are worried," Delnosh says, placing a hand on the bodyguard's shoulder. "As are we all."

With that Delnosh goes inside and Zelesht returns to the palace.

Days pass with no word from the battlefield. Then, one day, the sounds of trumpets could be heard approaching the main gate.

Suddenly a messenger rushes into the dinning hall where Vorash is entertaining Delnosh, his sister and mother. All were laughing at a joke when the messenger rushes in.

"My Prince," the messenger shouts joyfully. "Our forces return. They have won a great victory, My Prince."

Suddenly another messenger rushes up to Vorash.

"My Prince, I bring grave news. The King was struck by an enemy arrow as he left the battlefield. It was only a glancing blow but it seems that the arrow was filled with poison. They are bringing him in now. The doctors are hopeful."

"Where is he now," Vorash asks rising to his feet.

"He entered through a side door, My Prince. He is in his chambers now. The doctors are attending him."

Vorash takes a step and says, "I must go to him."

But suddenly Zelesht blocks his path.

"My Prince," he says softly but firmly, "There is nothing you can do for him. He has the best doctors in the kingdom by his side. Let them do their work."

"But…oh Zelesht you're right. I'm just worried. He's the only blood family I have left."

Vorash sits down again and looks for a moment like he might cry but he composes himself like the prince that he is and merely sits there hoping that his father will be well soon. Delnosh, for his part, places a hand on Vorash's shoulder in reassurance.

Minutes pass as they sit there in silence. Then Vorash says, "Bring me Sir Darak. As a commander he should have been close to my father during the incident."

"Yes, My Lord," a soldier says and rushes off.

Delnosh's father kneels before Vorash sometime later.

"Commander Darak," Vorash begins. "As one of this city's best and most trusted soldiers you would have been close to my father when he was struck, yes?"

"That is correct, My Prince," Darak replies.

"Then please, tell me what happened."

"The battle was joined early the morning after we left the city and continued on for several days. Near the end, your father and the king of the City of Darkness faced each other. Your father managed to best him and win the battle. Just as he began to return behind the lines, he was struck by an enemy arrow. Our warriors fought with renewed strength and killed many of them. We managed to return your father behind our lines and the enemy retreated behind their own walls where we could not touch them.

"I sent men and chariots to return the king here as quickly as possible. I only hope it was fast enough."

"As do I commander, as do I."

"My Prince! Come quickly," a messenger shouts as he runs into the room.

Without hesitation Vorash gets up and follows the messenger out the door.

Moments later Vorash kneels by his father's bed and grasps his clammy hand. Vorash senses that the end is not far off and slowly he rises and finds the head doctor.

"Please Doctor; what do you have to tell me?"

"My Prince, I wish I had good news but I do not. The poison in the arrow was most virulent. It was quick to put him in this state but seems reluctant to release him, either into health or into death."

"Then…there is a chance…?"

"No, My Prince. I'm afraid that there is no doubt as to what the end result can be. I fear he will not last the night."

"You did all you could Doctor?"

"There is nothing I would not do for him, Highness. I tried everything, both orthodox and not, old and experimental. The poison is just too strong."

"Very well then Doctor. Leave us. All of you leave us."

Later that evening as Delnosh waits outside the King's chamber his mother comes up behind him and gently places her hand on his shoulder.

"The rest of us are going home son. Are you coming?"

Delnosh tears his eyes away from Vorash, still kneeling by his father's bed to look at his mother, the only woman he'd ever love, and he knew that now more than ever.

"No Mother. I can't leave. He will need me come the morning."

"You care about him. Don't you?"

"More than I should, I fear."

"My son," she says taking his head in her hands and looking him square in the eye. "There is no such thing."

"I'm not sure the gods would agree mother."

"Well I do. The gods care not what gender the person you love is. As long as you love, they care not. Love is the most important thing that we have. It is our greatest weapon and our biggest weakness. It is the greatest gift we can give and our worst curse. But as long as you love, the gods care not. Take peace with that fact."

"Thank you Mother, you have always been helpful."

"And I hope always to be. After all, that's why I'm here."

Delnosh smiles, kisses his mother good-bye and returns his gaze to the boy beside the bed.

For her part, Delnosh's mother pats her son's shoulder and returns to her husband and daughter.

"Is he coming," Darak asks.

"I think the Prince will need him more than we will, come the morning."

"I think you're right. This promises to be a very sad night indeed."

Together all three head for home, knowing that the morning would bring the worst news yet heard.

Delnosh continues to watch Vorash as the night wears on, never sleeping. Simply waiting for the moment when Vorash would need him.

Sometime in the early morning darkness Vorash awakens beside his father's bed. Hearing nothing, Vorash squeezes his father's hand fearing the worst, but the King gives Vorash's hand a gentle squeeze in return and opens his eyes.

"Vorash…my son," he says in a whisper.

"Father, you must not talk. You need to conserve your strength…"

"It's no use my son," the King interrupts. "Even now…the gods call m-me to their court and the Eternal Flame beckons."

"They can't have you! You're the only blood family I have left. You can't leave me!"

"Neither the gods…nor the Eternal Flame…can be denied. I had hoped I would have more time…there is…was…so much to show you…to tell you…ah but I can see her angelic face now. It will be soon I fear."

"You see mother?"

"Oh yes, and she is more beautiful than I remember."

"Father please don't leave me. I have no desire to be alone."

"You are never alone my son. You still have Delnosh and Zelesht among others…you are never alone. Besides, your mother and I will always be here for you.

"Give this letter to Zelesht for me. It is my final order for him."

As Vorash takes the letter from his father's hand, the King whispers, "Until we meet again, my son."

The King's hand falls onto his chest and his breath escapes in one final exhalation.

Vorash grabs his father's shoulders and shakes him yelling, "Father? Father! Father!"

Knowing it's useless, Vorash stop shaking him and collapses onto his chest and begins to weep.

Delnosh and the guards rush into the room, the guards hurrying to the king's side. One of them bends down to feel for a pulse that is no longer there, and then announces the news.

"The king is dead," he says and Vorash cries harder. "I must inform the city." He rises then and rushes out of the room.

Delnosh gently places a hand on Vorash's shoulder and Vorash falls into his arms, crying onto his shoulder.

The remaining guard takes a step forward and says, "He was the only King I ever knew."

Delnosh, hearing the note of despair in the guard's voice says, "Compose yourself. You are a soldier, not a child. Act like it."

The guard looks at him and then at Vorash and before he can say anything Delnosh says, "He has lost a father; you have only lost a king. The two cannot be compared."

The guard simply stands there, looking lost.

After a while Delnosh manages to coax Vorash back to his rooms and cradles him until they both fall asleep.

The next day Vorash barely stirs. Still in mourning for his father he simply stays in bed, shutting out the rest of the world aside from Delnosh. He eats only when Delnosh threatens to let the courtiers in.

As day turns to night, Delnosh makes to leave. At the door Delnosh hears Vorash say, "Please don't leave."

"I must check and see how my family is doing," Delnosh says. "I'll be back."

"You could send a message. What other reason are you leaving for?"

"I fear what might happen if I stayed…My King."

Vorash winces at the title but manages to say, "I need you."

"Why?" Delnosh asks finally turning. "Why do you need me?"

Vorash throws off the covers and gets to his feet, dressed in only a simple white kilt. The sight of him dressed in such a way always took Delnosh's breath away and made him feel as weak as a child. This time was no different.

"I have always needed you," Vorash says walking toward him. "You have always been there for me. When I'm happy, when I'm sad, and of course for all this… unhappiness."

Vorash stops directly in front of him. They stand so close together that they can feel the heat from each other's bodies.

"And Delnosh," Vorash says softly, with love in his beautiful damp eyes, "I…"

"No!" Delnosh says forcefully, tears coming into his eyes and placing a finger on Vorash's lips. "Don't say it. I don't think I could take it."

"I love you," Vorash says softly, taking Delnosh's hands.

"Oh Vorash…I love you too. But I fear what would happen if I stayed again tonight."

"Why should anything happen tonight? And even if it did, why should we fear it?"

"Because of what it would mean, my love. You need an heir to continue your line and to make sure that the kingdom continues. Love, I can give you in abundance, but an heir is beyond me."

"Is an heir really so important?"

"Vorash this war is bigger than either of us. You need an heir to continue the fight."

"Let someone else bear the burden of finishing this war."

"You know that isn't possible. Only your line can finish it."

"Yes I know. But I don't care."

"Oh…my love," Delnosh says stroking his cheek.

"Hmmm, say it again," Vorash says softly.

"My love," Delnosh repeats in a breathless whisper.

They stare at each other a moment, each lost in the other's loving gaze. Suddenly Vorash moves in and begin kissing Delnosh. At first Delnosh resists but soon he finds himself kissing Vorash back and wrapping his arms around his neck, their mutual passion rising to ever higher levels.

As one they stumble over to the bed and topple onto it. The night is filled with the sounds of their passion, finally released after being so long denied.

The next morning Vorash awakens to an empty bed and a note on the pillow in Delnosh's neat scribble.

My Love,

You cannot know how much I care about you. How much I love you. But you have duties to perform and I fear I will only get in the way. Please do not look for me. I do this for both of us and for the future of the empire. Know this though, no matter what happens I will always love you.

Love,

Delnosh

Once again Vorash finds himself weeping over the loss of another close family member.