Along the Road at Midnight
Zacharion and Sihaya, unaware of the three men scrying from afar, ran swiftly from their pursuers and escaped them before they could recover their night sight and chase the two of them down once more. Soon they reached the stables, took up two horses and rode out from a hidden sally part. Now free of the palace, they rode hard and fast into the night-shrouded countryside, soon rejoining the road connecting the palace to the rest of the land.
Some time thereafter, as they rested their horses at a pond near the road, the two sat on the ground and rested themselves.
“I should go back.” Sihaya said, slumped on the ground, “Not yet, but soon.”
Zacharion shook his head. “No. Not soon. We’re the targets, so returning to the palace will play into their hands. Your parents, I have no doubt, will defeat this attack and respond forcefully in short order. Let them focus upon that task, princess. Stay for now, and stay until recalled.”
She looked over at him, her eyes screaming her refusal, but he sat unmoved.
“You also have the power of the purse. What we require, you can easily procure, where I have no wealth of either status or coin to do such things.”
This frank assertion hit her mind like a hammer, and instantly she sat up.
“I feel no shame in it.” Zacharion said, anticipating his companion’s mind, “You are the sole princess of this realm, daughter of two heroes and quite ready to assert your own quality when you think yourself provoked. “
“Your consistency of behavior unnerves me. “
Zacharion now got up and drank deep of the water in the pond. Splashing his face with it, he turned to his royal companion once more.
“Most boys aren’t raised as I was. Ilker demands a great deal of his charges, which your father can confirm for you if you doubt my testimony. He not only trained me to fight, but also to think and to feel- and to listen when thoughts and passions uncalled for seized upon me, for they often tell us what we need to know right then and there.”
Slowing rising to her feet, Sihaya joined him at the pond’s edge. “You’re still a boy, Zacharion. What man shall be your father now?”
Zacharion smiled. “I need no other father. Ilker shall always be with me.”
Sihaya looked, as best she could, at this boy’s face. Despite her own youth, she learned her lessons on how to read a face well- her mother, in particular, saw to it. In a guileless face, she usually found a foolish and often unfinished mind. Yet she knew Zacharion to be not only finished, but also of a mind more like her father than the silly boys she is long familiar with. Again, the Kiss cannot be ignored: all that bear it are noticeably apart from the common example of their type and kind.
Just then, he took her hands into his own. He put one upon his heart, and the other upon his brow. “Know for yourself.” he said, and in a moment’s passing she came to see through his eyes- and hear through his ears. Then she felt a distinct presence, a warm and brilliant one of great power and heavy with authority.
“Hello, daughter of my first apprentice.” said a voice old and powerful, a voice that showed itself through the boy’s eyes as Great and Holy Ilker himself. Sihaya gasped, astonished and unable to move or even think.
“My child,” Ilker said, continuing, “I allowed this because now is the time to listen and not speak. You must understand that this boy, my final apprentice, has a sacred charge to execute. It transcends the concerns of the Solar Nation, as it involves the future of the entirety of the free peoples of the world. Yet you have a place in this plan, more than one, and right now that place is to show him out of the Solar Nation. You must place your trust in him, for I have already done so, and now that my lawful time in life is complete this is all the further I may intervene into the world. Your father and mother were my disciples, so I am certain that you also possess that disciple quality. Be the first for the son of the sun.”
At last able to think, Sihaya immediate prostrated herself before the boy.
“Great and Holy Ilker!” Sihaya, reflexively, genuflected. “I am un-“
“Nonsense. Your parents taught you well, despite the cancers worming their way through their court, and what I ask of you now is no harder than what you have already done on my behalf. Arise, my grand-daughter, and take up your place beside my son.”
She did, and she felt the presence ease away. He took her into an embrace and kissed her on her forehead, saying “Don’t lead. Don’t follow. Be beside me. That is all I ask.”
She didn’t know it, but on her brow formed a mark of her own- Zacharion’s Kiss, a Kiss like and unlike Ilker’s own, and it soon took the form of a dot enclosed in a circle. What she did know is that now she is like her own parents, taken into a realm of existence unlike what she had before, and this sense of purpose suffused her being from crown to feet.
She then left his arms and took up the reins of the horses, handing one to him, and mounted her horse saying “I now remember clear the way to a place friendly to the crown. Come, let’s go before we’re tracked down.”