The Boy Arrives at Court
White-haired Zebulon greeted his court, his eyes heavy with care betraying a night bereft of rest and ever-fair Keela confirming it by letting her worry show on her face. The courtiers, their ladies and the attendants—in turn—showed by their uncanny silence and hesitation that they perceived their king’s distress. Wordless, yet clearly said, did those present tell each other that ill-tidings had reached their ears and dread anticipation had seized their hearts.
The doors to the court burst open, and a herald raced into the room. Running to the center, where the gold-inlaid relief of the sun sat at the foot of the dais before self-crowned Zebulon and his long-beloved wife, he stopped and looked up at the foreign-born sovereign.
“Your Majesty! My queen! Most honorable lords of Solland! A rider is at the gates,” the herald said, “a rider astride the white-gold steed of Great and Holy Ilker. He bears Ilker’s kiss on his forehead, my king, and asks for an audience.”
Weary white-haired Zebulon arose, sending all to their knees, and he went before the youthful herald. With the same firm hands that made him king, Zebulon grasped the youth by the shoulders.
“Look at me, boy.” Zebulon said, as a strong king should, “Look at my eyes and tell me, if you know it, what name this child answers to.”
The youth did as commanded, albeit in a hesitating manner, and he too told aging Zebulon that what he witnessed distressed him.
“My king,” spoke the herald, his distress clear in his voice, “the boy calls himself ‘Zacharion’.”
Zebulon pulls the herald to his feat. “Go to the gate and bring this word: ‘Zacharion shall be led straight to this very room, steed and all, and none shall impede his passing.’” With a wave, he dismissed the youth, who ran with all strength and speed out to do as commanded.
Once away, he put his eyes about his court, and with a simple gesture bade them arise.
“You heard as I have, surely, the whispers in the night: ‘The sun has set!’ Ilker, a living legend, hero to nations great and small and friend to all that embrace the warmth of life and wisdom of light that comes from the very center of our existence.”
Zebulon now indicated by hand the very sun symbol upon which he stood.
“So great was Ilker’s devotion that he eschewed all honors and took no titles. Though many nations wished him to be their king, he would take no crown. Though many realms begged him to be a father to their nation, he would favor none. ‘Yet are not all the nations of world deserving?’ he would say, and then depart from them to hasten to the aid of another. Many travelled with him, and many learned from him—I being the first to do so—and by his hand we learned and mastered wisdom that was once lost. We were the Rays of the Sun, bringing the light and life of the sun to the world in ways that he would not—could not—do himself.”
In unison, the court proclaimed: “Glory forever to Holy Ilker!”
“Yet, as Ilker was born a man, it was inevitable that a day would come when he would die like a man. That day, I knew in my mind, would soon come, but in my heart I did not wish it so. Yet now, I am unable to ignore that truth no longer. Nor shall any of the Solar nation.”
Again, the court proclaimed: “Glory forever to Holy Ilker!”
Now arose the radiant queen Keela, still beautiful long past the fading of youth, as she saw her husband be unable to hold back tears no longer. She flit down to his side and kissed away those tears, uncaring of what the court thought of either her or her husband as they always have.
“My husband, I ask that you hold a while longer. Let the child Zacharion report, and then we may grieve and honor Holy Ilker properly.”
Then down from the crowd came Adran, a powerful nobleman. “Majesty, why accord a boy an audience so easily? You assume that this is Ilker’s apprentice. Are not others able to make a horse seem to be Holy Ilker’s white-gold steed? Are not others able to mimic Ilker’s Kiss? Were you not, just this past year, almost slain in pursuit of the villains that stole the future of your house?”
“Indeed, Lord Adran, that was quite an affair and you still have not satisfied our doubts as to your involvement, but I shall answer you plainly: I know of Zacharion, as Holy Ilker speaks to those that once walked the world with him, and he resided near to this very citadel- we met often—and that is enough.”
Just then the doors again opened, and this time the herald led a white-gold horse of great stature. In contrast, the boy astride it seemed ragged and unkept, yet keen eyes saw clearly the mark of the sun in the flesh of the child’s forehead. “Ilker’s Kiss!” they murmured as the boy passed, and then in the sun on the floor man and horse stopped. The herald bent his knee.
“My king, I present the boy Zacharion.”
The white-haired king took the reins from his man and bid him leave, which the youth did and took up his place near the dais. Petting the horse gently, Zebulon saw that his former master’s horse still knew him from his own youth decades ago, and the aging king smiled.
“You are Zebulon, King of Solland?” the boy said, “Zebulon Red-Hand, Fire of the Sun?”
The old king chuckled. “I have not heard that name in a long, long time. Yes, young Zacharion, I am all of those men- and more.”
Zacharion turned to Keela. “And you are Queen Keela? Keela Steady-Hands? Keela Life-Keeper? Keela Sun-Spear?”
She too smiled. “Yes, I am. Keela of the Dawn, for I bring forth new hope—and renewed life—with each day.”
“I am Zacharion.” the boy said, “My master, Ilker, is dead. He passed peacefully, in his sleep, and is no more. This news I am charged to bring to all of the nations and all of the peoples who knew and loved him.”
Zacharion then pulled out a satchel, and from it he drew first an icon a dawning sun and gave it to Zebulon. Then he pulled forth a second icon, of a healer laying one hand on the chest of a fallen man while holding upward a knife, and handed it to Keela. They embraced and wept.
As one, the court again proclaimed: “Glory forever to Holy Ilker!”
Then a pause, a moment before Zebulon regained his composure and said, “The sun has set!”
In unison, the court responded: “The sun shall rise again!”
But, none present—save Zacharion—could avoid thinking the same thing: “Whose sun?”