|The House of Reon: Chapter 1|
|The night of the meteor storm my beloved's pain increased. The Father of the Citadel was rushed to her side by Hastimin my faithful captain. The birth was upon her and could not be halted. Though no one spoke a word, I knew that many talked and prayed behind closed doors. The birthing was early, and even though none would say it in my presense, I knew my child had a slim chance to live. Hastimin, it was, who reassured my misgivings,
"The queen is a hearty woman. If anyone can pull through this, it will be her.", he said.
The Father of the Citadel was more realistic, however.
"My Lord, Mairiesca the queen is very heavy with child, so heavy in fact, that I believe she may have a twin birthing. If she and the child, or children all make it through the night alive, it will be a miracle. What I mean to say Lord is if we have to choose between the child and the mother, whom should we save?", he asked.
So the choice fell upon me. He told me that my beloved had already been asked, and her decision came as no surprise to any.
"Save the child! The kingdom must have an heir", she had echoed softly through the pain.
I looked down at the old man and in a hoarse whisper spoke,"The will of the queen be done", and turned away.
What then transpired was later told to me by the Father. I was kept from the birthing room by his fellow priests, because of the difficulty of it all. For the last time I kissed my queen and left the room. My heart was heavy with dread and fear. Hastimin followed behind, forever my shield, my strength.
The old man wiped his forehead with his sleeve. He turned to his fellows and signaled that they should start the ritual of protection. The younger adepts clasped hands in a circle about the queen's bed and began their chant. The screams of the queen all but drowned out their chants at first, but slowly they increased in volume and the walls of the chamber started slowly to vibrate with the sound.
In the far corner of the room, almost hidden by the shadows, the heavy curtain of one of the large windows stirred as if by the wind. From behind the curtain a shadow of a figure stepped. Everyone in the room seemed not to notice the newcomer, but the Father paused for an instant in his work, and nodded his head in the direction of the newcomer. The figure nodded in return and moved back into the shadows of the window. The Father turned his full attention back to the queen. He touched for an instant her swollen belly then moved his hands and placed them on her dripping forehead. He took three quick breaths in secession, and turned still as stone closing his eyes in tight concentration. The queen's screams rose to a deathly wail as slowly he drew his power from the circle and sent it forcefully into her. She started to quite after several minutes, then her breathing eased becoming more and more shallow. Soon she was silent and asleep.
This done, the old man took the long curved knife from one of his assistants. It gleamed white for a moment, under the bright candles of the chamber; then turned red with the lifeblood of the queen. The chant went on sending its potent magic into the Father as he strove to remove the twin babes from the belly of the queen.
It was then he encountered problems. The life cord was completely tangled between the infants, wrapped around both their necks and bodies. He gently moved each, as fast as he dared, but it became increasingly more difficult as the cord being removed from one pulled the noose tighter around the other. Slowly the lifeblood of the queen drained away and her soul left the world. The man gasped at the sudden breaking of the link he had had with the mind of the queen, and he knew then that he had failed. He lifted his head in anger and breathing deeply again set himself with the determination to save the children at all cost. The knife came down, swift and sure. The queen's body lay slashed and ripped, but the children finally came free.
The old man handed the newborns, one at a time, to his assistants. Quickly they got them breathing and cut the cords. He then stepped back into the circle of priests and a young woman came forward.
The Father spoke to her, "Sketin. Use the oracle again, I must know for sure that its portents have not changed since the queen has died." The woman nodded and reached into a small pouch at her side and pulled forth a motley assortment of small cubes, spheres, and triangles. She stooped quickly to the floor dropping them at the foot of the queen's bed. They clattered, making a distinct and clear sound, almost like wood. She bent down for a few moments and studied the ways that they landed. Lifting her head with a resigned look, she spoke, "I have read the shapes again Father, and the truth of what will be cannot be doubted. They tell me once again, that if the babes are raised together, the House of Reon will perish from the world forever." She bowed her head to the circle and resumed her place. The chanting ceased.
The Father hung his head in shame for what he knew now he must do, the worst thing he could ever think of doing, to willfully and knowingly deceive his lord. The babies lay before him bundled in the finest clothes. The assistants had found them to be in perfect health, after their birthing ordeal. And each kicked and screamed increasing their hold on the world. The Father reached out taking one of the babes at random, completely and irreversibly changing the destinies of each. Slowly cradling the child, he walked towards the open window. The dark man stepped forward again, becoming visible. He bowed to the Father and then received the infant into his waiting arms. Cradling the child under his cloak he leapt towards the nearest window, vanishing into the night. The father came forth and pulled the window closed. The room was deadly still except for the cry of the newborn as it breathed itís first breaths.
Hastimin escorted the Father to my chambers. I had never seen the old man so worn out before, and I had known him all of my life. He had been one of the adepts even when I was born, during the time when my grandfather had been head of the House and Kingdom of Reon. Soon after that, grandfather had died and my father had assumed the throne. The Father of the Citadel had been near me even then, as he was one of my very first tutors. His wisdom had not always been the best, but definitely the most practical. When my father and lord was killed by a stray arrow during the war of the border tribes; I was thrust into the role of king at the early age of 22. Although I had finished most of my formal training and had served out my spiritweaver apprenticeship, nothing could have prepared me for the problems I would come to face. Many noble aides, both men and woman of high esteem helped me survive this period. Holding the border tribes at bay and eventually even driving them back. Most of all, during this period, I won the wisdom of experience and grew to be an accomplished and accepted leader. My captains lifted me up the most and gave all they were to the kingdom and to me. Hastiman though young himself, was chief among them. In the intervening years after this, the kingdom grew and prospered. Peace was found and felt for ten good long years. I met and married my beloved, my queen, Mairiesca. We had many problems together adjusting, but our love always held us true. We had been trying for over five years to produce an heir to the kingdom without success. In the end she did conceive and grew heavy with child in the following months. She had become very ill also and had been confined to her bed for the remainder of her term. And the birthing, it had come much too quickly. I truly fear the news the Father has to tell me.
The old man came forth and bowed to the Kraylinar, the Telumaster, his king and leader of the house of Reon. His hands shook and his voice was hesitant.
"My lord." he mumbled with his head bowed, "The queen is dead."
A deep silence of gloom fell upon the room. Hastimin bowed his head in sorrow as the king pulled his hands through his hair. The onrush of emotions threatened to overwhelm him. Kraylinar regained himself and his breath.
"What of the child," he whispered through gritted teeth?
The Father finally looked up at his king and looking him straight in the eye said, "The child survived. It is a boy, my lord. His health is fine and his lungs are strong. He will live." The man bowed his head again and his voice faded to almost a croak. "His sister did not survive, however. She was stillborn."
Kraylinar head swam with a fury of emotions. With an angry voice, not directed at anyone, he said coldly, "Leave me."
The Father bowed again never lifting his head and quickly walked from the chambers. Hastimin turned to his friend.
"I will take my leave also Kraylinar." Slowly the tears streamed down his face. "If you have need of me, I will be outside standing guard." He bowed again and left.
The king lifted his head and watched him leave. The chamber doors closed with a loud boom. The echoes of it trailing down the vast hall. It slowly faded and the silence deepened. The king closed his eyes tightly and wept. He wrung his hands through his hair in agony and cried out in despair. He never even heard his silver crown as it fell from his head and spun upon the floor slowly rolling to a stop. The throne room was covered in sorrow.